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London's Burning (1988–2002)
Make British tv great again.....
20 October 2018
Being almost the last entertainment available on sunday nights before the grind of a new week, Londons burning with its up beat easy going jazzi music score as well as its distictive closing credit music was staple viewing in the UK through the 1990's. In fact we were first introduced to blue watch in a one off film in 1986 which could have easily been a pilot to the series. When then the series aired in 1988 most of the original watch from the film had returned to blackwall fire station. However, by this time the UK was in the midst of the heady days of Thatchers economic boom where the term Yuppie and Dinkis were became common phrases, a sharp contrast to the the grim events of the 1986 film.

That being said the UK prided itself with its down to earth working class early evening soap operas where ordinary people were just trying to get by dealing with all the everyday challenges in life. By contrast in the USA, all there soaps centered on wealth, power, ambition and revenge. The men despite their pearly white teeth and beach boy looks were shallow cartoon characters and the women although glamerous were one dimension barbi dolls. Although entertaining in their own right, those shows were not in any way a fair reflection of real people and there societies. By contrast, Londons burning was about fire fighters so it easily fitted into the type of tv which the UK had become accustomed to.

Looking back now I suspect that the producers left a lot of scenes on the cutting room floor as they tried to get the right balance of seriousness, humor, drama, character development as well as the action with the shouts. It was successful because the stories were entertaining and the show never dwelled on sentimentality or over played its hand in human interest or on the themes of social justice. Despite the deaths and some human tragety it was easy watching and the audience figures which were as high as 16 million were only a testament to this. The show really hit the sweet spot and entered the national consciousness probably between series 3 through 8. Although, seasons 9 and 10 were fairly solid, but you could just feel the air coming out of the show. After watching selected episodes on Youtube over the last 18 months I wasnt impressed with series 11 - 14.

The personel turnover on the watch which may have been quite normal in the fire service, was eventually too much for the series. From the end of season 2 to the end of season 3 Vaseline, Tony, Charisma and station officer Tate left and the bambi eyed Josie would also make way sometime between seasons 3-4. Malcolm left the show during season 5, replacements Kate and Colin left at the end of 5 and 6 respectivly, then with the loss of bayleaf, Kevin and Hallam during seasons 8 and 9, there were very few of the original cast left. Even Bullstrode and Scase who made reacuring rolls throughout the series were written out by the end of season 8, so overall l it think it all eventually all took it's toll.

Obviously new characters had to be intoduced but with fireman from Australia, as well as european exchange firefighters, there was a sense that the show was losing its soul. The UK became more embroiled with the greater euoropean project and I'm not sure blue watch were a good fit for the so called hip Tony Blair years of "cool Brittania" where bacon butties, mugs of tea and beefburger and chips gave way to designer drinks, latties and pasta and brocholli. Even the brown uniforms intoduced made the firefighters look like a cross between maximum security prisoners and the Swiss Navy.

The proliferation of satelite tv and what they had to offer from America put pressure on terrestial tv for its viewing shares. Consequently, in an an attempt to keep up, the show changed its theme tune and tried to become more macho, middle class with squared jawed and well groomed fireman, hardly the fire fighting type. The women also had to be sexy and tough with tatoos. Was this a reflection of where society was moving or was it delving into american soap territory?

Either way, they couldnt keep up with the type of entertainment that younger viewers wanted and they alienated the older viewers. In the end the show ended in a trainwreck (no pun intended). Looking back. perhaps the scene at bayleafs resturant at the end of season 8 where most of the watch were singing "smoke get's in your eyes" should have been the swan song for the series, after that as a reflection of how the country was changing the show began to lose its charm. All in all watching it today its a nostalgic strip down memory lane to a London that is forever lost and when British tv was great.
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Magnum Force (1973)
9/10
"Magnum force will make your day!"
1 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
If you were to ask film goer's which character or movie they would associate with Clint Eastwood it would probably be his portrayal of the no-nonsense crime buster inspector Harry Callahan. Of course Eastwood had done some very popular movies prior to this including his spaghetti westerns in the 1960's and even after the Harry Callahan run he has gone on to do some well acclaimed films in front of as well as behind the camera. It's worth mentioning this because despite being well into his seventies he's still in demand as actor and director which is a testament to his movie making abilities and longevity that spans fifty years! All in all an impressive achievement. Be that as it may, when you play the character of Harry Callahan five times over an 18 year period it's hard for fans not to associate him with the part.

MAGNUM FORCE might actually be a tad better than DIRTY HARRY as well as being the best of the sequels. Not only do we learn a bit more about Inspector Callahan but also it's a more interesting and compelling story as well as having a better all round cast. Well, at least it seems that way as time has gone by, because the supporting cast of David Soul, Tim Matheson and Robert Urich who play the easy-going traffic cops would go on to be well known stars in their own right through the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's. In addition they are backed up by the brilliant Hal Holbrook playing the impatient and easily irritated lieutenant Briggs.

Tough street wise cops were not a new thing to Hollywood, but because of the civil rights movements in the 1960's and 70's there were a lot of new rules that the police had to adhere to and their methods came under greater judicial scrutiny. If there was a whiff of wrong doing, the judge would instruct that critical testimony should be dismissed and vital evidence rendered inadmissible thus making the DA's prosecution impossible and an acquittal or a dismissal of a case a certainty. They had rights! As a consequence it seemed that the courts became a sanctuary or a get out of jail card for the criminals! Also, rather than having some dopey public defender the criminals gained access to the new breed of wise-guy smarmy lawyers who would use all forms of court room trickery to gain acquittals for their clients. Whether it was organized crime, pimps, murderers, rapists and muggers the system seemed to work in their favor.

Also, politicians became sensitive to the minority communities complaints of police strong armed tactics leaned on local police forces to ease off. All this coincided with an explosion of violent crime in the early 1970's where the public particularly in the big cities became anxious and frustrated at this. Therefore movies such as DIRTY HARRY where Harry used his own methods to get his man and DEATH WISH which encouraged the public to fight back using the same methods as the hoods all captured the public imagination. In the follow up, MAGNUM FORCE explored the possibility of vigilante cops acting as judge, jury and executioner because the system seemed not to be working.

Inspector Callahan is not impressed by these new methods and shrugs off pressure from above. The beginning of the movie sets the tone, from his indifference towards the gunned down thugs as well as the way he tackled the hijacked plane only demonstrated the way he wanted to do his job. When it appears that some one is trying to put the courts out of business as the body bags that are piling up in the cities morgue are San Francisco's dregs of the earth, Callahan has the unenviable task of finding out who is responsible for this? Harry at first thinks that it is some rouge cop acting out of impulse who might be the one responsible for these revenge killings but as things progress it appears that this is not just a random or a spur of the moment act.

Callahan becomes suspicious towards a well disciplined team of rookie cops who he knows are expert marksman. It appears that they are a highly motivated and are a product of a well organized shadow police force who have support much higher up the chain of command. Although Callahan has no empathy towards the people who are being killed and to a large extent understands why somebody might carry out such a deed, he is much happier catching them in the act and blowing them away in a shoot out. He is uneasy at the blatant execution style of these killings and is way beyond what he thinks is right! As his investigation unfolds, he too becomes a target and when his partner gets rubbed out it seems that he may have crossed more than just the mayor and the chief of police! Now with nobody watching his back, can he get to the bottom of this before he becomes a victim, and more importantly who can he trust?

There are obvious plot holes but it is more than compensated by great cinema photography with great shots of San Francisco, shoot outs, an easy going back ground score and and of course a very smooth Clint Eastwood to boot. The sparing between Briggs and Callahan is entertaining and produces some great dialog, it's well worth a watch and I'd highly recommend this to 70's movie buffs and Clint Eastwood fans!.
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Dallas: Swan Song (1985)
Season 8, Episode 30
" The black-swan song !"
15 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
All in all probably the last vintage season on Dallas before it started to lose ratings. The major story lines were of a high standard which produced some entertaining scenarios as well as new characters being brought in. The only clanger dropped was the introduction of a new Miss Elie earlier in the season and Sue Ellen later returning to the bottle which had all become tiresome. Yet it was the season finale "Swan Song" that was to create a defining moment in Dallas where Bobby Ewing one of the original cast was killed off.

Another interesting feature of this episode is that unlike most of the other end of season cliff-hangers when some story lines overhang to the next season, pretty much most of this seasons primary plots had reached conclusions with the only exception being the ongoing Mark Grayson mystery which did leave something dangling. Firstly, Ewing oil stayed with the Dallas Ewings, (except 10%), Jenna was finally acquitted for manslaughter and released from jail and Lucy finally grew up and remarried Mitch. Cliff Barnes for all his trouble got Jamie Ewing as a wife rather than the two-thirds of Ewing oil that he hoped for and Pam and Bobby decided to get back together.

Watching this particular episode the viewer can sense an claustrophobic aura of foreboding, you were just waiting for the other shoe to drop! Well it did and Bobby Ewing was run down by Catherine Wentworth and later died in hospital. In doing this the Dallas creators seriously underestimated what his departure would do to the series. They rightly decided not to replace the actor but still failed to fill the void that had kept the right balance and chemistry between the characters.

Dallas was really all about JR and his desire for power and control of Ewing oil and the conflict he had with the three central characters. These included his neglected wife Sue Ellen, arch nemesis Cliff Barnes and his hot and cold relationship with his brother Bobby who was the family enforcer and from time to time was able to reign JR in! He was also in conflict with Pam, Clayton and Ray, but they were broadly of a secondary nature to the show.

It wasn't just the loss of this central character to the series and the relationship with JR that was missed, or even a pillar of the Ewing family that JR could always really when the family had to close ranks, it was also the loss of JR's alter ego in the show. Bobby in virtually all ways compensated for his brothers Machiavellian view of the oil business. In some ways Bobby came across as more of an elitist than JR, who tended to be more boorish. He was dismissive of people that were not his equal and also very impatient with others if he did not get his own way. He was short tempered and quite prepared to throw his weight about and step on people in the process. However, this was tempered by a greater sense of moral certitude and values in his business dealings. Although he had alpha male traits, he could still be gentle and kind and also give his lovers a level of passion that JR could neither offer or match. If they had tried to create a character to replace him they might have pulled it off but they didn't and as a consequence the show and Jr's character became out of sorts.

In season 10 they decide to get Bobby back and "swan song" became a false ending, because the ending and the entire next season was one of Pams' dreams. It's important to note that the dream start's in "swan song". They are getting intimate and then it flashes to the outside and you can see the inside lights go out! Then the next scene shows Ray and Donna at Southfork who seem to be reconciling followed by Bobby being hit by a car and then lastly the death bed scene were Bobby dies. Probably, the dream starts after the light go out in Pam place. Of course originally it wasn't meant to be dream, nobody could see that black-swan coming!

So for anybody who is a new fan and buying it on DVD rather than watching the series as it unfolds on TV, at the end of this episode jump to season 10 and follow from then on. Yes the production is different, the hair styles different and the actors have aged a bit, (they do show the shower scene at the beginning which was the ending of season 9), that's the best advice. Then get season 9 at a later date and follow the parallel universe and see what Dallas would be like without Bobby Ewing!
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Capricorn One (1977)
10/10
" Life on Mars!"
3 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a gem of a thriller from the late 70's that has conspiracy over tones right the way through. It was very contemporary for it's time with a fine cast that could easily have been a whose-who guide of American character actors and actresses of that day, indeed many of them are still currently active in Hollywood. Although I did say contemporary, the Apollo space program had been wound up some 5 years earlier and the space shuttle was still a few years away from getting off the ground. However, after Watergate, the loss in Vietnam and a failing economy a cynical American public were probably ready to believe that the Apollo space program was nothing but a hoax!

Many people believe that the Vietnam war was fought primarily to feed the America's huge military industrial complex. Massive government spending was required to keep it going, so what better than a war! Going further, critics say that NASA's Apollo space program which was also known as "the space race" was also politically motivated and just part of the cold war shenanigans. Get to the moon before the soviets to prove who had the best economic and political system as well as creating a feel good factor in the country. NASA was also a large part of the military budget which ran into millions of dollars which many thought was far too much, particularly that there were more pressing economic and social problems at the time at home.

After getting off to a slow start the USA eventually got the better of the USSR and landed men on the moon in 1969. Yet, conspiracy theorists suggest that the moon landings were staged in a studio. They say that the USA simply did not have the technology back in the 1960's to have landed on the moon. Why did they do it? Probably for political purposes too. President Kennedy in 1962 predicted that they would send a man to the moon by the end of the decade and thus keep the USA ahead in the space race. In addition other benefactors of the space program thanks to congress and their ability to appropriate funds provided by the tax payers were the large corporations and their shareholders.

The movie itself is entertaining and the only thing wrong are some of the obvious plot holes that leave more questions than answers. For example the three man crew are hauled off the rocket minutes before it's launch and are then coerced into going along with fake the Mars landing after threats are made against their families. Of course a complicate crew would be vital with such a stunt, but one wonders why the conspirators would not have got volunteers or willing participants to be the crew? It would not be too difficult to find volunteers for the right price! Let's face it if the moon landings were fake, surly they are not saying that all the Apollo astronauts went on their missions under duress!

Also, there is a major mistake when the conscientious engineer (Robert Walden)who tells his superiors that his data from his console indicates that the astronauts transmission seemed to be coming in from only 200 miles away rather than way out in outer space. Wouldn't he have discussed this with his other co-workers and wouldn't this obvious oversight have been discovered by other engineers too? While playing pool in a crowded bar he just simply disappears, with no record of him ever working at NASA and never ever living in his apartment! What about his mum and dad, neighbors, friends and co workers, they all couldn't have been in on it? Be that as it may, they get rid of him effortlessly but then they struggle to get rid of Caulfield (Elliot Gould). This third rate reporter was eventually able give them the slip and carry on with his investigation.

Aother problem is that it is unclear how many people that are involved and how deep it goes? Initially Dr Kelloway (brilliantly played by Hal Holbrooke) says that very few know about what they were doing. Then argues to the bemused astronauts that they have to go along, that things are too big it's out of control, there are too many large and powerful forces that simply have too much to loose if the mission is canceled. I counted about 15 people including the technicians at the studio, Helicopter and jet pilots and presumably CIA or FBI agents. Did they have to take more people into their confidence after Brubaker (James Brolin) and his crew escaped from the sound stage? It's also not clear if congressman Hollis or the general knows about the fake landing nor the need to kill the astronauts after the heat shield failed on re-entry, although it implies it!

All in all an entertaining movie with great dialog, plenty of tension and paranoia. A Great opening monologue from Hal Holbrooke, in fact its just worth watching it for that if nothing else! Superb cinema photography, great sound track and music score from Jerry Goldsmith. If you can ignore the obvious faults it's not a bad watch at all. I would highly recommend this movie!
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7/10
" Just another white guy in a suit!!"
8 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
There have been a lot of changes in American politics since this was released, but at the time Rob Reiner was probably motivated to produce this because of the election of Americas first baby-boom president a couple of years earlier. In doing this he attempts to shed some light on the complex political system in Washington DC, perhaps for a new generation of Americans but certainly for those who are fascinated by American politics. It's not just the political horse trading that goes on for votes, or even the power and influence that lobbyists hold but also how the manipulation of polls ultimately determine policy making. More importantly by the 1990's the baby boom generation who were immersed in the social changes and civil rights movements in the late 60's and early 1970's either as liberals or conservatives were now in government either as democrats or republicans. Therefore the script for the American President reflected the cultural clash of that time period playing out in national politics during the 90's.

For example, in the USA the American left want to expand the role of government in all facets of life even though very few people demand this. They focus on global warming and international agreements over climate change and attempt to control inner city gun violence (which is really drug related) as well as promoting gay marriage. None of these issues concerns or benefit the urban middle class, the rural blue collar working class or average voter who are the ones playing by the rules and are trying to get ahead.

On the other hand the right complain about the demise of moral standards and the strains on the traditional nuclear family. Yet they are often unable to live up to the high standards that they preach and are caught out having extra marital affairs, flirting with collage interns or chasing congressional page boys. Military service is the most honorable thing a patriot can do, but many of them and their immediate family members find better or more lucrative things to do than serve themselves and are happy to send others over seas to do the fighting. Illegal immigration is a real problem, but often it is disclosed that many people that they hire as nannies and gardeners don't have a valid green card. Lastly, big government is good if it's spending that they want! None of these, although embarrassing indiscretions for what they proclaim to stand for affects the quality of life of the middle class either.

Americas' first baby boomer President not only never served in uniform but avoided service in the Vietnam war, he experimented with drugs, and over the years fooled around with other women while at the same time being married. His ambitious wife aware of these affairs, not only shrugged this off but was determined to get involved in policy making in the white how and was quite happy putting the political boot in. This was all in sharp contrast to the traditional non-political role the first lady tended to take. The right did not like this type of relationship and it became a political issue at the time.

What follows is largely a cosy, easy going romantic comedy and the film touches on a few of these hot button political issues. The fictional President here was Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglas) a single parent, a former history professor and governor from the state of Wisconsin. Elected by a small margin largely on the back of sympathy because his wife died during the campaign he also had the burden of receiving a very small winning percentage of the vote.

This time the ambitious woman is Sydney Ellen Wade a pushy, sassy, feminist heavy-hitter from the lobbying and political consultancy world of Washington DC. Having taken a fancy to Wade the widowed Shepard seeking intimacy has to fight off republican criticism that he is dishonoring the white house by having a relationship with her while not being married. (If only Reiner was to know what was to later be disclosed in the real white house a couple of years later)!! This is red meat for his political opponents, but he refuses to be drawn into something he regards as a private matter. However the attacks on his character and the campaign to bring Wade down by portraying her as a radical or extremist eventually takes a political toll, consequently his job approval numbers go into free fall.

Also during this there is an sub-plot when Shepard has to respond to a terrorist act linked to Libya. Because of his lack of military experience and needing to look tough for domestic political purposes he orders a retaliatory attack on the Libyan intelligence building in a "decisive and proportional response". On this occasion the unlucky recipients on the receiving end of a smart bomb are the janitors working the night shift. The intelligence agents presumably responsible for the original terrorist act know that it is coming and are setting up shop somewhere else. Shepard is not sure of the real benefit of this but gives the order knowing full well that he is beholden to the domestic political reality of not wanting to be seen as weak.

In the end Shepard comes out swinging and seems to get the upper hand over his political enemies, although in this case the movie ends as soon as gets the last word! Never the less it's still an entertaining and watch able movie with a fine supporting cast i.e. Michael J Fox, Annette Benning and Martin Sheen. No doubt this inspired NBC's the " West Wing" and in all intensive purposes could easily have been a pilot for the series!
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10/10
" Dial 'H' for Hitchcock !!"
3 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When you watch this movie it's impossible not to feel that Alfred Hitchcock was a genius! Whether it's a thriller like "North by North west" where the viewer is taken half-way across America, or an espionage movie that treks across Europe in "Foreign correspondent" or just simply a plain case of mistaken identity in the "The wrong man", Hitchcock was always able to find the right tempo, atmosphere and chemistry for his films. It's hard to imagine a simple stage play being transformed into a Hollywood box office hit, because with the exception of one or two short scenes, the entire movie takes place in a confined environment of a ground floor flat in Maida Vale London. Not surprisingly Hitchcock does not disappoint and is able to pull it off by producing a highly entertaining film!

It is a well written story with great dialog between the characters, but it is the tension, the incidental music and the camera angles that make this movie compelling viewing. Needless to say the movie was blessed with some big box office draws of the day in Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and Ray Milland, with fine support from Hollywood based Brits character actors Anthony Dawson and John Williams.

I'm not suggesting that Dial M for murder is Hitchcocks best movie, the best of course is a subjective viewpoint, but the lead character here Tony Wendice who plays the villain, a washed up former tennis pro is probably Hitchcocks most diabolical killer. I say that because he is not deranged or violent but cold and calculating, he is able to personify evil in an easy-going and matter of fact way. For example not only does he really enjoy blackmailing Swan but takes great pleasure in detailing the way he plans to kill his wife and get away with it. In addition you can see that he is proud of the meticulous planning and ruthless dedication that has gone into this.

What's fascinating about the character is that when he gets home and finds Swan dead rather than panic he does some quick thinking, takes advantage of that and is able to stitch up his wife Margot for Swans killing. With his marital woes now behind him (his wife going to the gallows) and the only person who knows other wise unable to talk you can see that he is pretty pleased with himself. Things couldn't have worked out any better for him and he even starts spend the cash he did not have to pay Swan. Even at the very end, a very nonchalant Wendice just casually pores himself a drink as if he had just come in from work. Watching him is like watching water of a ducks back, you'll simply never see Ray Milland in a better role!

Robert Cummings plays crime writer Mark Halladay who is Margots lover, and Grace Kelly plays Margot who comes across as mostly bewildered the whole time, even before the attempt on here life. John Williams plays police inspector Hubbard who at first one just dismisses as an eccentric dunce. Initially you underestimate him and wonder if he is in over his head, but as his role becomes more prominent you realize that he is smarter than he looks and is way ahead of Wendice as things unravel. Lot's of twists and turns as you would expect from a Hitchcock movie and despite some obvious legal problems with the crowns case against Margot, it's well worth a watch!

(Note: even if the initial crime had been successful and Swan had been able to extricate himself from the flat the police might have been puzzled why there was no wet footprints, grass or mud on the carpet bearing in mind that the garden was wet and that was the way he had meant to have gained access?)
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Dallas: April in Paris (1990)
Season 14, Episode 1
5/10
The sun finally setting over Dallas!!
3 July 2008
Dallas had now reached it's third decade, but it was to be short lived, season 14 would be it's last! However, it had done well, out of all the other glam soaps that had been inspired by Dallas in the 1980's they had all been canceled except for network spin off KNOTS LANDING which was left to bring up the rear an run for another couple of years. So after 14 seasons and with only three of the original cast members surviving it was the end of the road for Dallas. Miss Elie and Lucy finally ditched in season 13, although the characters would still technically remain in the series on an extended holidays, they would never appear again. Miss Elie who was integral to the character set up being the matriarchal figure would be particularly missed, Southfork seemed empty without her. Also, season 14 would also be the only one where there was no updated outdoor scenes of Southfork.

Often in Dallas stories would carry over as a cliff hanger into the next and true to form JR was stranded in a puzzle-house after one of his devious schemes backfired. After about 14#.3 he was able to get out. This season was one of the poorest and if it wasn't for the story surrounding Bobby and the events in Paris, Dallas would have resembled being a pantomime. The rest of the stories were not very convincing, they seemed aimless and had no real purpose. Just off the top of my head I think that after Bobby sold Ewing oil it changed hands about 5 times, in fact I'm still not sure who owns it? In addition characters seemed to come and go, they turned up from no where and then disappeared. Also there seemed to be numerous marriages followed by annulments. Some engagements were on off and on again old wives turned up with their infants and there was an appearance by Larry Hagmans co-star from the 60's comedy I dream of Jeanie Barbara Eden playing an oil tycoon that had a longstanding grudge against JR. All in all a comical merry go round that was hard to keep up with!

In the very first episode of this season April disappeared in Paris while Bobby went for a drink with now retired wildcatter Jordan Lee. He discovered that a woman Sheila Foley who they had befriended while in France was behind the disappearance. She wanted to impersonate April Stevens-Ewing so she get close enough to whack some top OPEC dignitaries at a major oil gathering. By driving down prices OPEC rained havoc on the US oil industry forcing many of the smaller independents into bankruptcy. Not only did they want revenge they also wanted to send a message that they resented dancing to OPEC's tune (something we are still doing bye the way!). Despite masquerading as April Ewing at the conference, the assassination was foiled and in the ensuing chaos April and a number of Foleys goons were killed. Up until the end of this season the major story revolved around Bobby seeking revenge on Sheila Foley and his bitterness towards the oil business.

This was a bold move and took Dallas into international intrigue involving terrorists. The way the story concluded in Paris might have disappointed Dallas fans but the scenario itself was interesting because it only served to reinforce the view and fear that Americans have for Europe. They see Europe as a hothouse full of radical political organizations and corrupt police forces, with the French in particular being the worst. Apart from being rude, they display a general dislike of the English speaking world with Americans in particular being at the top of the list. This story was similar to the 1987 movie called FRANTIC which saw an American couple in Paris caught up in a kidnapping which involved international terrorists. Never the less it all seemed too late for Dallas despite the high intensity of the story, it ended in a depressing way and Dallas never got it's spark back!

So there it is the last season in a long run, it could have continued on for a couple of more seasons but I suppose after 14 seasons it was time to stop drilling! I got the feeling that Bobbys loss of interest n the oil business perhaps reflected Patrick Duffys loss of interest in the series. Larry Hagmans health was no doubt becoming an issue and Ken Kercheval aged very badly during the 14 seasons. Without any of these characters Dallas it never could have continued. Many thought that the ending was a bit corny The last two episodes revolved around a bizarre story of JR being visited by an Angel (Like Frank Capras movie IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ) showing what the world would have been like without JR Ewing. It was OK, I just wished that they had finished on a high rather than a downer, then again the viewer was left with the impression that JR had taken his own life, perhaps appropriate after the torment he had rained down on everybody else!!
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Dallas: Return to Camelot: Part 2 (1986)
Season 10, Episode 2
10/10
" Carry on Camelot !! "
23 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
At the end of season 9 it appeared that both Sue Ellen and Jamie Ewing had been killed in separate bomb explosions. However, the real kicker was a startled Pam awakening from slumber only to find a beaming Bobby Ewing bathing in the shower despite having been killed at the end of season 8. What should we make of this? Prior to this being aired it had been leaked that Patrick Duffy was to return to Dallas. The question on everybody's mind was how were they going to pull that one off? Well ideas ranged from a dopple-ganger, a long lost twin brother or even that he had never been killed and his death was faked so he could work for some secret government organization. This was all up in the air until it was finally revealed that the entire previous season was nothing but one of Pam's dreams! With the return to Camelot we see a concerned looking Bobby who walks out of the shower to comfort a stunned looking Pam saying "you look like you have just seen a ghost". Yes that's what it felt like, but Bobby reassures Pam that none of it happened. For the viewer you then had to cast your mind back back to the end of season 8 and pick up the stories. The dream was never mentioned again. The only real continuity problem was the introduction of character Ben Stivers who turned up at Southfork looking for work only to turn up again, this time as Wes Parmalee in this season.

Never the less a two hour opener was enough to get things back on track with new stories and before long Bobby's character just picked up from where he left off in season 8 too! With Bobby out of the series the ratings began to slide, whether it was his omission or just glam-soap fatigue or other factors Dallas was a shadow of it's former self in season 9.

In all honesty Bobby could have returned by saying his death had been faked so he could go underground for the CIA and track down Katherine Wentworth or something like that, but the writers and producers took a bold move and abandoned season 9 and started season 10 a fresh. So what happened to our dysfunctional family? Well most of the characters had become boring, they were all soppy and lovey-duvy with each other and the stories were unconvincing and aimless. To make matters worse the main plot was convoluted and turgid and many of the sub-plots were wishy-washy. It all ended in a train wreck that could not easily be untangled but best remedied by rubbing out series 9 and starting a fresh.

In this new season they were back with a vengeance, Cliff and Jamie were at logger heads, Donna and Ray were now irreconcilable, Sue Ellen turned over a new leaf and her character finally moved on. She started to become more assertive, forgot about Dusty and took control of her life. It was bold and it was needed but more importantly it worked, with her money she could have easily done something rather than just go shopping! Also, a much higher profile was given to Ewing oil nemesis Jeremy Wendel, and Jack Ewings sleazy ex-wife was hot on his trail after learning of his 10% Ewing oil windfall. All a complete contrast to the circumstances left in the dream season. Also, it was the first time since the 1983-84 season that Clayton the original Miss Elie (Bel Gedess) and Bobby were all in the show together.

This season had a more Dallas had a more Texas feel to it, the episodes moved fast and JR embarked on what was one of his boldest or reckless schemes since either illegally selling oil to Cuba or financing a coup in an oil rich country. He decided to hire the best mercenaries in the business to blow up oil wells in the middle east and start a war. Consequently, all this chaos would cause the global price of oil would go through the roof, what an interesting idea! It's ironic that 20 years after this season aired after a US president from Texas started a war in the middle east oil is almost $130/barel, maybe he was inspired by this story line from Dallas. JR was clearly 15-20 years to early with his ambitions! All in all not a bad start to this next phase in Dallas, it was not the golden years but it was a good effort over all.
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The War (2007)
10/10
Over sexed, over paid and over here, ----- yes but there's more to the story!
15 May 2008
I still think that the gold standard of WW II documentaries is the 1970's World at War series. Laurence Oliver's ominous Macbeth style of narration set the tone and the 26 episode series covered WW II really well. Critics point out that it showed the war from more of a British point of view. I suppose the fact that Britain and it's dominions were fighting against the Germans and the Japanese for longer than any of the other allies in the Far East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, Scandinavia and continental Europe is perhaps understandable. If casualties alone was the standard used to measure sacrifice or relevance then the USSR could lay claim to that . Over 15 % of it's population in some form of another perished in the eastern front amounting to millions in a war of annihilation against the Germans. Taking it on it's own I don't think there is a conflict in human history that can match the brutality and barbarism that took millions of lives in such a short space of time. They are all important topics in the context of WW II and they have over the years been excellently covered and narrated by American as well as British production companies. One aspect that has not been really been examined thoroughly is the WW II purely from an American point of view.

Ken Burns probably needed to remind a new generation of Americans whose understanding of war is limited to computer games and watching smart bombs and predator drones on TV or on you-tube bombarding specs on the ground from a command center in Florida. In previous wars, Americans endured greater sacrifices. A lot of boots on the ground was the order of the day and American troops encountered huge numbers of well armed and fanatical opponents. Interestingly Burns seemed to focus on four states of the USA, Connecticut, Alabama, Wisconsin and California. I don't know why he picked these these in particular, but probably because it gave a good geographical balance of how it affected the lives of the families and the servicemen in the USA.

There is no doubt that mainland USA protected by the vast Atlantic and Pacific oceans had an easier time in WW II than the other allies. The US was never really under a serious threat of either large air raids or invasion. Yes crude attacks were attempted both by the Germans and Japanese but only for propaganda purposes. If it was an accident of geography (and the isolation explains the USA's late entry into the war) lucky for the USA and lucky for the world too! Remember it was a world war and the arsenal of democracy as it was known could offer vital military equipment and manpower for the war effort.

From a standing start,(although lend lease to Britain and armament production had been steadily rising since 1940) the USA really got it's industry going on a total war footing. Japan and Germany had a ten year head start in war capacity and training. By 1942 Americans were fighting in North Africa, by 1943 Italy, 1944 France ,as well as doing a bit of island hopping in the pacific to boot and by 1945 it was all over. In fact Americas limitless natural resources, raw materials, manpower (and woman power) and huge industrial potential uninterrupted from air raids were vital. Not only was it important for victory but also in shaping the post-war world, i.e. the Marshall plan. Americas efforts in the aftermath of the war with European and Japanese reconstruction should not be underestimated.

The American military with their self confidence, bold ideas, optimism and big band music and might have irritated and annoyed the other allies. In Britain they were over sexed, over paid and over there. However, amusing that might sound it doesn't really go anywhere in telling the whole story. On the cover of this DVD set there is a photograph of a tired and gaunt looking American GI, a far cry from the beaming soldier fresh off the boat in the snazzy uniform out on the town. He could have been from any where in the USA perhaps Connecticut or Wisconsin, but his haunted face tells the story. He was probably in his early 20's wanted to go college or get married, join his fathers business, work on the farm or be a lawyer, perhaps he wanted to be a baseball player. Yet his life was turned upside down, conscripted into the service and after boot camp was shipped off thousands of miles from where he grew up to places he had never heard of!

American blood was spilled as far and wide as Iwo Jima, North Africa, Normandy, Bastogne and Guadalcanal, Anzio, Remargen and Midway, just to name a few, ten of thousands of Americans died on land in the air and at sea. American forces were involved in some of the most vicious fighting of the second world war. Victory over Hitler nor Japan could have been achieved without US participation, but the USA couldn't have done it all alone too, allies were vital too.

It gives an interesting account of the war from how it impacted the lives of Americans and how they saw it from their point of view. I got the impression from Burns that the US fought harder in the pacific, it was more personal, probably because of pearl harbor but moreover the Japanese were really easy to hate, they were exceptionally cruel to their captives. Well narrated in an easy going style by Keith David. Must movies for Americans to watch after this is THE VICTORS 1963 and finally the very impressive BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES 1949.
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Dallas: Carousel (1988)
Season 12, Episode 1
8/10
Dallas hitting the ten year itch!!
21 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Dallas had now been on the air for a little over ten years and despite the dreary dream season it was easily the most successful and popular glam soap of the 80's. By 1988 it was still going strong, had recovered well in season 10 and continued to pull in respectable ratings although they were down from it's peak in the early 80's. Season 12 marks the last decent season before Dallas began to display major fault lines prior to being canceled. There were a number of factors that contributed to this but not least the most obvious was the ongoing list of characters leaving the series. By the end of this season Dallas was to see the last of Sue Ellen and Ray Krebs, two of the original cast. With Jenna's departure at the end of the previous season and Donna and Pam's departure prior to that, it just all began to take it's toll. This is not to say that there were not some good scenes or great episodes and even some good stories in 13 and 14, it's just that one sensed that Dallas seemed to be running down the clock. Also in season 12 JR seemed to get more and more vulnerable and started to lose his authority and edge. In addition there were very few updated outdoor shots of Southfork which would explain why there was no Ewing barbecue this season, although we still had the oil barons ball.

So out of the original Ewings plus Cliff Barnes we had 5 of the originals left at the end of this season with Lucy returning after a four year absence. Also, by this time many of the sub-characters had all gone by the wayside, Sheriff Fenton, Scotty Deamrist, Franklin Horner and Andy Bradley had departed. By the end of this season Harry McSween was to no longer visible and the excellent cold -blooded Jeremy Wendell who had been an integral character on and off for a number of seasons would make way too. Sometime during this season Jordon Lee would retire from the oil business although he would continue to pop up every so often until the last season.

So what were we in for in season 12? Well at the end of the previous season something that some Dallas fans had been wanting to see for some time saw a distraught Sue Ellen shooting JR after her lover Nicholas Pearce fell off the Ewing condo balcony during an altercation with JR. At the beginning of this season JR was sitting up in bed recovering from gunshot wounds much to the bemusement of the doctors who were scratching their heads wondering why no vital organ was hit or major blood vessels severed? OK we knew that JR had no heart but to come through almost unscathed was a miracle! Despite the fact that no charges were brought against Sue Ellen or JR they were both now totally irreconcilable and filed for their second divorce! However, this was not nearly enough for her and wanted the ultimate revenge. She hooked up with a film producer to make a movie about a character based on JR that was intended to make him the laughing stock of Dallas. Consequently to do this the viewer was treated to many flash backs from previous years.

Ray Krebs had decided to sell up and move to Europe with Jenna so his ranch was sold to carpet bagger Carter Mckay, well cast by George Kennedy, who after seemingly being to good to be true caused the Ewings all sorts of trouble. This resulted in an all out range war between the two with both sides hiring mercenaries to defend each others land. Mackay was a welcome addition to the series and I think his presence added a nice touch even during season 13 and 14when Dallas was on the wain. He proved to be more than a match for JR and his relationship with the Ewing brothers got testy on more than one occasion. He brought in his daughter who had a fling with Bobby and also his drug crazed son Tommy who was very dislike able and much to the relief of Dallas fans eventually got what was coming to him. Cliff was to join Ewing oil as a full partner which in some sense gave a feeling that Dallas had come in a complete circle, consequently he didn't have a forceful or combative relationship with the Ewings in this season. However, Jeremy Wendell continued his obsessive vendetta against JR as well as any Ewing who happened to be in the way.

The Ewings did some traveling to Europe during this season, JR got himself into all sorts of hot water as well as finding a new a new bride and despite some missteps and ups and downs Bobby finally managed to find a new love although Pam still lingered in his mind. Still good entertainment, enjoy this season but I think it began to slide from season 13 onwards.
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9/10
" Looks like he's just retired from the entertainment business!" (Becker referring to Putzi)
28 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a nice taut docu/drama about a fictional family the Hoffman's which chronicles life in Nazi Germany from the early 1930's up until 1945. When it was originally aired back in 1985 it was a two part TV mini series which has now been put together in a movie format. I said a fictional family, but in essence it could have been any family from Germany at that time. This British production is not as long or as well done as the better know American ones such as THE WINDS OF WAR (1983), or the NIGHTMARE YEARS (1989). Never the less don't let that put you off, it's still very entertaining and makes up for any production shortcomings with character chemistry and some great dialog. Also, events are put on the fast track here because from an historical point of view it doesn't dwell too much on any one aspect of the SS activities or the war as a whole, so film move's quickly.

Karl Hoffman (John Shea) is the first in the family to be drawn to the Nazi doctrine and as a disgruntled worker joins the brown shirts or SA who are Hitler's storm troopers for the early part of his rule. Helmut Hoffman (Bill Nighy) who is more of an intellectual is less impressed by the excesses of the SA and initially wants to have no part the Nazi movement. However, but because of his blonde hair and blue eyes is eventually recruited to the more elitist and seemingly less boorish SS under Heinrich Himmler and his ruthless enforcer Reinhard Hydric (David Warner). So Helmut leaves his studies and moves up the ranks as Hydric's assistant and soon becomes immersed in some of the most critical decisions of that period.

After the "night of the long knives" things take a turn for the worse for Karl. With the disbanding of the SA as well as the liquidation of it's top leaders he soon finds himself surplice to requirement and consequently is on the receiving end of some rough treatment as well as a taste of Nazi prison life in the notorious Dachau. Fortunately, Helmut using his position in the SS is able to spring his brother out of Dachau but after being so enthusiastic about Hitler from that moment onwards Karl is bitter, disillusioned and troubled by what he has experienced. Despite given promotion in the German army which by this time he was forced to join he is still unsettled and as things go from bad to worse in on the eastern front he deserts his unit and heads for home.

In the mean time and despite not having the enthusiasm nor the stomach for, lets say the more unsavory aspects of life in the SS Helmut knuckles down. He strikes up a friendship with another assistant called Becker (brilliantly played by Warren Clarke) and soon realizes that once you have joined you can't just resign! Their parents also opt for the quiet life, the mother brings up the youngest brother Hans and the father works on the railways that seemingly always run on time. There is a poignant scene when he comes across a cattle truck crammed full of people and who are obviously in distress, but when he inquires about them his supervisor snaps " oh just some Dutch Jews, don't worry there in no hurry where there going". This is obviously a reference to the efforts made by some that the German people knew nothing of the cruelty and atrocities under the third Reich!

As the war comes closer to home Karl returns to find his family and discovers that the house has been flattened and their parents killed an air raid. The youngest brother Hans now old enough to join the "Hitler youth" becomes a member of the "Volkstrum" a rag tag outfit of boys and old men that have the thankless task trying to stop the red army from over running Germany. Hans having been brainwashed for years can't be reasoned and decides to stay put and fight for the "vatherland",despite the best efforts from his brothers to convince him otherwise.

In the final scenes as the Russians are closing in Helmut realizing that as a member of the SS he will be the victim of harsh retribution tries to abscond from active duty and tip toe away in civilian clothes. However he is recognized and executed by his own side for not fighting to the end. Finally when it's all over after the final battle Karl is comforted by a family friend Mitzi when they discover the body of his youngest brother Hans in the rubble. All in all an ironic ending to the movie because in the opening scene both Karl and Helmut are seen running to the church way back in 1931 for the christening of their younger brother Hans. In the end in the ashes and ruins of Germany this 12-13 year old boy who knew nothing but Hitler was just one of many millions killed, is surly testimony to the madness of the so called 1000 year Reich.

There are some good performances, it's mostly a British cast but it is supported by Americans Jose Ferrer, John Shea and Tony Randal and is defiantly worth a watch. I'd highly recommend this particularly if who are interested in WWII history!
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Dallas: Killer at Large (1984)
Season 8, Episode 1
7/10
" Warning ahead! - - - - - After seven seasons was Dallas about to jump the shark?"
21 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As Dallas entered this season not only did JR have to accept that he had to share Ewing oil with Bobby but also had to come to terms with the marriage of his mother to Clayton Farlow who he hated. It was all a bitter pill to swallow considering all the trouble he had gone in trying to break them up. In addition to that despite going to great lengths and putting together a carefully orchestrated scheme to finally ruin arch rival Cliff Barnes the plan backfired when Barnes-Wentworth struck it big in the gulf and now made them a major player in the Dallas/Texas oil business. Yet it wasn't a complete waste of time for JR, he was successful in breaking up Bobby and Pam's marriage although the devious and conniving Katherine did provide a helping hand.

The previous seasons finale left Bobby slumping out of JR's office chair after a mysterious intruder took a pot shot at him. It wasn't clear who did it or if they were after JR or Bobby. Be that as it may JR had plenty of reason to be worried after what he did to Edgar Randolf, Vaughn Leelan and especially after double crossing Katherine Wentworth. The good news was that after some temporary blindness Bobby made a complete recovery.

Why this episode deserves special mention is because after four great years and despite good ratings as Dallas entered it's 8th season it finally hit a fork in the road because from here on Dallas started to lose it's edge. It wasn't just competition from the other networks glam-soaps, although it might have some effect, perhaps Dallas became a victim of the high standards that it had set for itself in the previous seasons. It just simply all began to take it's toll, basically how long can you keep it up? Although the major stories in season 8 were OK, the problem was using Donna Reed as the new miss Elie. Although it was understandable that there needed to be a matriarchal figure to keep the character balance, to introduce a new actress to take the part after seven seasons was just asking too much. It just didn't look right!

Also, Patrick Duffy had made it clear that he intended to leave the series at the end of this season and it wasn't clear to the viewer if they were just going to replace him or write Bobby out of the series? With an arrival of a new Elie, a new Bobby was probably out of the question! Also, Lucy left at the end of this season too so with the death of Jock Ewing a few seasons earlier the original Ewing family began to look pretty thin on the ground. This was all made worse by the fact that many of the remaining original characters began to look stale too. They seemed unable to develop Sue Ellen's character any further from being a sex-starved neglected wife and recovering alcoholic and Pam wasn't fairing any better either! She always seemed out of sorts and despite running a large oil company just seemed helpless most of the time. All in all the series began to look tired during season 8!

Well after so many years where else do you go? The involvement of Jenna's first husband added a nice twist and the arrival of cousins Jack and Jamie Ewing added a new dimension too. Jack (Dack Rambo)was being primed to fill in as the series hunk as Patrick Duffy had all ready made it clear he wanted to leave the series after this season. Although I thought that Jack was a likable character he seemed to be too light-weight and was often left just hovering or wondering around, he had no real presence. Ironically a better character to fill that void would have been Marc Singer who played Matt Cantrell in the dream season. His physical presence and hot headed temper as well as his knowledge of the oil business might have suited the show better as Jack Ewing. He could have filled the role of soap beefcake as well as being the family enforcer over JR, a role that Bobby had done.

In addition it's worth mentioning that because of the dream season in season 9 many of the characters and stories from season 8 (1984-85)were left hanging over well into series 10 the (1986-87), so to some extent Dallas seemed to tread water for three next three seasons. Everybody else has got there own views but for what it's worth I think that Dallas was about to embark on a couple of dodgy seasons and to many it never really recovered!
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Dallas: Check and Mate (1983)
Season 7, Episode 6
8/10
" Finally - - - - - the winner is! "
21 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This episode requires special mention because as with a lot of Dallas seasons the real end does not always occur until four or five episodes into the new season, the end of season cliff-hanger is a sort of phony ending. Here the winner of the year long contest between JR and Bobby is announced and just in the nick of time Bobby's Canadian investment with the Mcleishes comes in big and he is declared the winner. Despite trying to undercut the cartel, ride roughshod over the other independents as well as risking Ewing oils reputation with an illegal oil deal in Cuba, JR still looses to Bobby who has played hard, but within the rules. Despite all of JR's underhand tricks as well as trying to take advantage of his brothers marital woes, in the end Bobby turns out to be the better oil man. Another feature of this season is that we see a JR that is not just at his most devious and scheming but also is as mean and cruel as you will ever see him. In fact he borders in being sadistic and deranged.

Just to recap in episode 5 #9 (five dollars a barrel) JR is forced to crawl to Cliff Barnes to ask for an extension on the note he is holding over JR's loan. A smug and cocky Cliff Barns belly laughs in an exaggerated tone that he has "finally licked the great JR Ewing". The look of hatred in JR's face is apparent. Towards the end of season 5 JR turns the tables and sets up the greedy and gullible Barnes to take a fall. Barnes is left broke, his mother fires him from Wentworth industries and Sue Ellen rejects him and goes back to JR. Cliff so distraught at this ultimate humiliation attempts suicide.

Cliff recovers, but in the beginning of this season now back to full swagger decides that he hasn't had enough of JR and try's to cross swords with him again by stealing deals from under his nose. JR attempts to set him up again to take the ultimate big fall. Not only does he want to crush and ruin Barnes but he also connives with Claytons unstable sister to try to block his mothers marriage to Farlow which almost leads to disastrous consequences. As for Claytons sister - Jessica as they say down Texas way " her cheese has definitely slid of her cracker" , and that's putting it mildly!

The real eye-opener in this season is the way he blackmails the hapless Edgar Randolf. JR really enjoys blackmailing him and continuously goads and torments him for a number of episodes until he can't take it any longer and he too attempts to take his own life. So troubled by what JR is doing to him he decides that he would rather be dead than have the information revealed to his wife and children. In episode 7#18 while Randolf is recovering in hospital a grinning JR, in complete contempt mocks him in a manner that is truly shocking. Telling him that even dead he would make the information he has on Randolf public, regardless "just to prove to the world that JR Ewing keeps his promises"! At no time in Dallas was JR as ever cruel and callous as he was here!

There you have it another great season in the making and it really starts here with some great stories. Look out for the return of Jenna Wade, Katherine Wentworth really turning evil and Claytons unhinged sister played brilliantly by silver screen actress Alexis Smith! Also, in this season the Oil Barons club replaces the Cattlemans as the Dallas watering hole!
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Road House (1989)
9/10
"Just watch my back and watch each others , - - - - and take out the trash!!"
31 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When you have a film where the men display their toned biceps by rolling up their sleeves, don a mullet hairstyle and the women wear micro skirts with big hair you know that this is the quite essential 80's movie. Top billing here is Patrick Swayze who was in big demand at this time by Hollywood, was able to put to to good use his physical dexterity and dancing skills to to play a martial arts expert who is a head bouncer in this testosterone laden movie. There are a lot of good character actors in support, some great dialog and plenty of brawls to keep your attention.

It's mostly a guy movie but it has it's chick moments although their contribution is not really very memorable,however more importantly it's a good verses evil movie! It's not a new concept there have been many similar themes over the years and the one that in many ways stands out was the 1950's western " Shane". It very much resembled this i.e. a new kid in town who stands up to the local heavy and mobilizes and encourages the terrified locals to aid him!

Personally I never cared for bouncers, I used to enjoy provoking them just to see how far I could get before they got violent, also I witnessed a fight outside a club once where the bouncers themselves were badly beaten up by some thugs, therefor this movie aroused my attention.

Patrick Swayze plays Dalton who has a reputation in the night club scene as a top "cooler". This position is somebody who over sees the bouncers and make sure that nobody gets out of line. Although he has a degree in philosophy, Dalton uses his martial arts skills to work in the night club business and consequently gets head-hunted by a club owner from a small town in Kentucky who persuades Dalton to help him clean up a night spot called the "Double Duce". The only condition Dalton insists on is that he gets well remunerated (he gets what he wants - no negotiation!) and demands cart blanche i.e. what he says goes and he has the final word!

After driving down (he doesn't fly , it's too dangerous -- how ironic!) and after visiting the club he realizes that this place is a slaughterhouse that will only attract trouble makes and low-lives. He soon gets up to speed and marks the thugs and decides that some of the bouncers themselves who relish the violence are as much a part of the problem as anything else, (not at all unusual by the way). Dalton soon assets himself and starts to sort things out and get rid of the bad apples the the place starts to resemble a reasonable night spot.

However, what the owner doesn't tell Dalton is that the town itself is run by a local hood and entrepreneur Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara) aided and abetted by his hired muscle. Not only does Wesley have relatives that have been fired by Dalton but he also has designs on the club it self. Wesley soon realizes that Dalton is not some Johnny come lately and nor will not be a push over because after a couple of encounters with Dalton and his newly trained bouncers his goons come off second best.

When Dalton cannot be bought off or reasoned with into joining his organization, he lets his top enforcer the intimidating Jimmy (Marshall Teague)off the leash to really crank up the pressure. Dalton realizes that he's going to need help and asks legendary cooler Wade Garret (Sam Elliot) to join him down at the Double Duce. What makes it even more complicated and really irks Wesley is that one of his former girlfriends who has not only rejected him but takes a fancy to Dalton, so Wesley tries to get to him by using his morality and good conscience against him.

By intimidating the locals by destroying their businesses he hopes to turn the locals against him or else force Dalton into leave town as to save their livelihoods. Dalton does not back down and up to this point it's just gratuitous violence and intimidation, however after a show down between Jimmy and Dalton that results in a shocking conclusion, all bets are off and killing and burning down buildings are now fair game.

Never the less it's great entertainment, enjoyable to watch although you shouldn't take it too seriously. Two things to point out: there is not a cop to be seen in this movie until the very end, also special mention has to go to one of Wesley's henchman the hapless O'Conner who was not only twice on the receiving end of a Dalton beating but also suffered the indignity of a public dressing down and got slapped about by Wesley. This was for not measuring up to what Wesley had come to expect from his men as well as the inability to endure pain! Never the less there he is at the end still working for Wesley, the unemployment line would surly have been a better option at this stage!

Well there you have it, grab the pop corn sit back and enjoy Dalton and co take out the trash and send people to barbers college!!
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Dallas: New Beginnings (1981)
Season 4, Episode 21
6/10
" The last appearance of Jock Ewing !!"
30 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Contrary to the trivia given in the previous episode on IMDb, this was actually Jock Ewings last appearance in Dallas,(although he appeared in the opening credits for the two remaining episodes of season 4), or at least the last appearance of Jim Davis who played Jock. It was a small part at the very beginning sitting in the back of a limo, he only a couple of lines.

Jock's character remained in Dallas for a while working in South America for the US government although Jim Davis who had played him had actually died months earlier. (For a number of episodes up to this one Jim Davis had looked ill, his skin was discoloured and his face very often looked bloated, --- probably due to the medication he was taking.) Deciding not to kill him off immediately, this gave the producers time to decide what to do with Jock. They chose not to bring in a different actor because Jim Davis who had played him since the very beginning had personified Jock so much with his powerful and uncompromising presence that a replacement at this stage could have looked ridiculous! This decision was clearly vindicated later on in the series with the sudden appearance of a new Miss Ellie played by Donna Reed that simply looked bizarre.

It's important to note that the writers did keep the book open with a return of Jock due to the fact that his body was never recovered. Much later in the series this led to the introduction of the character of Wes Parmalee who claimed that he was Jock. That story turned out to be an anti-climax and a dead end which was probably a good thing, because the suposive return of Jock was clumsily done, if the script had been better then they might have pulled it off. Be that as it may the Parmalee character did create some interesting sub-plots to the Dallas series while he was there!

Never the less with Jocks departure this created an opportunity for Dallas which gave the writers the opportunity to add some important features. With Jock now out of they way JR became even more reckless and given a free hand he had even more room to maneuver with his plots and devious schemes. Also, the addition of Clayton Farlow who was to be the new patriarchal figure as well as Miss Ellies new squeeze only created another front for JR to fight on.

It's important to add that although Jock never returned his spirit remained in the series through the years. His portrayed first hanging in Southfork and then in the Ewing oil building. Even in season 13 towards the end of the series one of the major story's involved Jocks service in the US air-force during WWII. All in all a season 4 represented a turning point in Dallas, but the golden years continued to roll on!
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9/10
"Theres no conspiracy, every death can be explained ! - - - - - - Or can they?"
3 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There are many people who comment on the IMDb web site that are in the movie industry in some capacity struggling to earn a living in writing, directing or producing and even the ones on the outside that are looking in and can't find work. They see their vastly superior scripts, or movies that they are trying to promote or be financed rejected and then they come across a film such as the PARALLAX VIEW, it must drive them potty having to make sense of this! That's too bad for them, but in my case I'm just an end user, I don't care about poor writing or plot holes or if a movie is a bit of a train wreck. I judge a film positively simply on the basis if it keeps my attention and entertains me, or there are scenes in it that I like, nothing else!

In 1974 this type of movie was contemporary with America embroiled in a political and constitutional crisis with Watergate and struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of the Vietnam war as well as the hangover from the assassination of a President in 1963 . An investigation followed where the official report from the "Warren Commission" concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone as the assassin . If this wasn't bad enough Oswald himself was rubbed out while in police custody by Jack Ruby who also died very shortly after, seemingly in mysterious circumstances. In addition over the years there was apparently an unusually high number of deaths from people who were at some capacity involved or close to the facility of the JFK shooting i.e doctors, nurses, coroners, security etc. Endless documentaries and books outlined the fact that many suffered more than there fare share of coronaries or pulmonary embolisms, car crashes ,drownings and suicides in the immediate post-assassination years!

In addition if that wasn't enough ten years on from JFK and after the assassination of prominent civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr and popular democratic presidential hopeful Bobby Kennedy as well as an failed attempt on segregationist and presidential contender George Wallace, a skeptical US public did not buy the official line of a lone deranged gunmen with a grudge. The government had lied to them for so long about so much, they were just ripe for alternative view or theory.

What I like about this movie is the atmosphere created by Pakula the music score both at the beginning and the end as well as in certain areas during the movie. Also there is an eerie sense of foreboding, it's quite unsettling. There are some good scenes i.e. up on top of the Seattle space needle, the grinning assassin at the bottom after, Joe Frady on the plane, the meeting with one of his female companions, the desperate and frightened Austin Tucker and lastly the brain washing scene at the parallax complex. I admit to seeing plot holes and I understand that it's frustrating at times with more questions than answers here, but it still kept my attention.

The ending is unsatisfactory and not easy to explain? Did Parallax realize that Frady was an investigative reporter, or was he simply hired to be a patsy that would take the fall for a killing? I believe that it's likely that the movie allows the viewer to fill in these plot holes anyway they like bearing in mind that it would be impossible to produce this type of conspiracy in under two hours. Also, they would have to fill in the gaps and form their own conclusions! Then again, maybe Pakula was being subtle! The fact that the events that unfolded are not plausible only reinforced my feeling that maybe it was just his way of pointing out to a cynical public that the idea of this type of organized conspiracy was simply ludicrous, so he presented a film that suggests just that!

Personally I liked the movie, there is a good cast with Warren Beatty, William Daniels, Paula Prentiss, Hume Conyn and Earl Hindaman (who played Mr Brown in the taking of Pelham 1,2,3). In particular I liked Bill McKinley as the assassin, he never said much but came over as menacing, he really seemed to enjoy his work! Overall, more worked for me in this film than didn't. If you like 70's films and government conspiracy movies you'll probably get a kick out of this. There are also some nice out door shots too. I would recommend this movie.

Note: in 1975 a year after this movie was released President Gerald Ford who prior to becoming president was on the "warren Commission" was also a victim of a couple assassination attempts on him, apparently from lone deranged gun-women. Also, ironically both Walter McGinn and Alan.J.Pakula were killed in automobile accidents a few years later.)
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10/10
"Two thumbs up for this over-looked 70's caper!"
2 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is an almost forgotten gem from 1979 which although in essence a comedy it was based on one of the UK's biggest ever bank heists. In fact one of the titles that this film is known by includes "caper" therefore that in its self is an indication of the type of movie. A of a bunch of lovable rouges, who are not the violent or psychotic types, who with cheek an guile pull off the biggest job of their lives. To be honest I don't really know too much about the real crime and can't comment if it accurately depicted the events that unfolded or the characters involved.

Richard Jordan handles himself very well playing PINKY Green and is very believable as an easy going small time American born crook who seems very comfortable with himself. I have to add that sometimes American actors struggle gel well with English actors in a British made film, the chemistry is not always there, however this is no problem for Jordon who fits right in with his role.

It's worth pointing out that Jordan himself was probably one of the most underrated actors of the 70's and 80's and never really got the recognition he deserved. He seemed to get stuck in supporting roles and B movies, not a fair representation of his acting ability. He has played a corrupt cop in THE FRIENDS OF EDDY COYLE, a sadistic killer in THE MEAN SEASON. In THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS he played a sort of comical Gordon Gehco character and also in the 1980's EQUALIZER TV show he played a good guy. All of this displays the versatility of his acting skills while mixing with the likes of David Niven, Kurt Russell, Edward Woodward and Robert Mitcham.

In this movie he effortlessly plays his part as a small time crook with the eye for the ladies and you immediately take to his character and root for him from the beginning. You can't help liking Green, – – you see he really did want to go straight but once blackmailed it all seemed too much of an opportunity to pass up and in the end he relished the thought of all that money.

David Niven is the boss and calls the shots, the police inspector was brilliantly played by Richard Johnson who typically portrayed a smarmy but thorough London detective who clearly loves his job. The other supporting cast don't say too much but looking at them they were all very well known British character actors who often found themselves playing either villains or coppers(isn't that ironic). Elkie Sommers, Oliver Tobias do what they have to do and it's good to see Gloria Graham in a cameo role.

To some viewers particularly Americans it would seem ludicrous that somebody with Greens record could land a maintenance job at of all things a bank and come and go when he pleases. In addition the stunt he pulled at the crown court after sentencing was not as far fetched as it might seem, back in the 1960's and 70's security was not as nearly as tight as it is now.

As for the movie itself there are a couple of interesting observations. With small time crooks the haul here was too much. There have been other movies where this occurs too i.e. THE BRINKS MAT. It's not just the disposal or the hiding of the loot but with so many people involved somebody is going to be careless, is going to blab or just simply break once leaned on. In addition the authorities come down on very hard on local rouges when such huge robbery is carried out. Also, they say there is no honor amongst thieves but Ivan was adamant that PINKY got his whack. You only had too look at his stare in the dock, if looks could kill, a look of total betrayal! How could he have dobbed them all in after taking care of him? You have to ask yourself a question why is it that crooks can be so stupid? Did Green really think that he could sweet talk his way out of suspicion a second time around? Inspector Watford was not at all fooled by his innocent looking face as well as a well constructed alibi, the whole caper reeked of inside job. In addition you have to wonder why they leave so many clues? A note pad with the safe numbers jotted down, travel brochures for overseas trips, still leaving his telescope around as well as unusual behavior on the day of the robbery which was out of character.

With some decent but common sense police work Insp Watford quickly had the measure of Green, picked him up and soon had him singing like a canary. It just shows how despite well thought out planning things can unravel very quickly, there is never a clean getaway for every body, some are always going to get nabbed. Although it's worth pointing out that a lot of the money was never recovered.

All in all an entertaining movie, interesting shots of London and England in the late 70's, well paced, with a great ending. I would highly recommend this particularly if you enjoy capers. ( Note: I recently purchased a DVD of this but the transfer was obviously taken from a VHS tape and is of poor quality. Therefore do not pay too much for it!)
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The One That Got Away (1996 TV Movie)
8/10
An account of an SAS operation from Chris Ryan's point of view!
2 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is the better movie of the story about the British SAS unit that gets discovered by the enemy in the 1991 Iraq war. Although BRAVO TWO ZERO is technically a better movie with regards to the build up to the operation, character development and the firefight on the ground after they had been compromised the story of Chris Ryan is more compelling.

In BTZ there is a much heavier emphasis on Mcnab and his ordeal after he got captured which is where I lost interest and in all honesty found this part of the film tiresome. That's not to say that this part of Mcnabs ordeal was not harrowing and that his survival through this with his other members of his doomed unit was not a story that should be told, it's just that I'd prefer left to my imagination.

The won that got away by contrast was not so heavy on the scenes of interrogation and torture but went back and forward from Ryan to Mcnab as the movie unfolded. In all reality Ryan's escape was remarkable and that is an area of the whole story that I found incredible. This film allows the viewer to see that taking the enemy by surprise and getting into a firefight with them can cause havoc behind enemy lines as well as leaving behind a huge body count.

However on the flip side it shows that it serves of little military value to the overall war. SAS units are ideal for observation, sabotage and rescue provided they are extracted immediately. No matter how tough these guys are once hostile forces have fingered them, being outnumbered, lost, and exposed to the elements, unable to communicate makes them very vulnerable, but when the food runs out and you have no ammunition left they become completely useless. Eluding capture for so long under such conditions and eventually escaping into Syria was a miracle!

Unlike Hollywood movies with Chuck Norris and Marshall Teague that shows small units on Navy seals wiping out 100's of the the enemy, kicking ass and fighting themselves out trouble of without so much as a scratch TWTGA paints a more realistic picture. Although to be fair Black hawk down provided a more realistic insight into the hazards of special forces operations, but even then it was a much larger operation with over 500 men with ground and air support.

Note: NBC's TV series 'JAG' actually portrayed a similar fictional American operation where the one soldier that got away was actually court-Marshalled for desertion.)
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The Place of the Dead (1997 TV Movie)
9/10
"The British Army at it's worst!"
2 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know if this was based on a true event but it's an interesting film that tells a story of a bungled British army expedition of about 10 men in Malaysia (I think). The movie itself starts off with a board of inquiry and continues through flash backs as events unfold. What is more embarrassing is that not only is this is a none military operation but they are not in any danger from local natives or come under any hostile fire from i.e. local guerrillas or anything like that but are put in danger by themselves with poor decision making and incompetent planning. Inept leadership, arrogance, selfishness and poor communication between the men are all on display and to some extent, hubris or a total and utter disrespect for the of the jungle they are entering. They act as if they are out on a hike in North Wales rather than some of the most inhospitable jungles in the world.

Major. Carlson (known by the ranks as a "Rupert") puts together an ad-hoc team of men for some kind of expedition that has never been completed before partly because of the difficult terrain. Despite warnings from some of the locals of the dangers and suggestions that his team is not up to it Carlson shrugs of the warnings as just "silly local superstition".

However things start badly from the beginning as "just to make it interesting" they do not take the proper communication equipment nor have a the good sense to have a plan B or a rescue mission prepared in case of things get tough." Things will just take care of themselves" and "what could possibly go wrong"? Well plenty, it's obvious from the beginning that some aren't up to the task and when there was an opportunity for some to turn back at an earlier stage they decide to in the great British tradition just to "push on".

Some talk to Carlson and persuade him that it would be better to split up as they can move faster than the others can. It's unclear here if proper permission was given or if there is a misunderstanding but they do split up and it's here that they really put themselves in jeopardy.

After splitting up the team that is ahead are still not satisfied and want to move quicker, so one of the members of the team convinces them that Carlsons men must have turned back and that they should continue but leave a note just in case! Well the men left behind with Carlson did not turn back and when they find the note the penny drops --- they are in trouble! With dwindling food supplies they realize that they have not the strength to go back and are completely lost. They put their faith in the group that are ahead hoping that they will get out and send help, that is their only chance. It's at this point Carlson begins to reflect on his planning and decisions and realizes what he's done.

However, the lead group is not fairing any better and are also finding it hard going. Their food is running out and they too are disorientated. At this time panic sets in and the stronger members of the lead group realizing their predicament have concluded their best hope of survival is to convince the rest of the lead team that they too should split up. They suggest that they can move faster to find the illusive exit out of the jungle that legend says exists while promising to wait for the rest to catch up. They don't, and at this time it's every man for himself! Fine supporting roles from Ralph Brown, Simon Dutton, Dougray Scott and John Mcardle (the always down on his luck Billy Corckhill from Brookside.)
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The Train (1964)
8/10
" The French resistance keeping the Germans off track!"
1 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is not a bad movie set in WWII about an French train driver that plans to thwart the Germans from looting some important works of art. These are some well renowned paintings which the Germans plan to take back to Berlin. Although it is WWII, it's important to note that none of what actually unfolds contributes anything to the overall campaign on the western front nor does it have any bearing on the outcome of the war as a whole. It's simply just a story very much in the mold of THE DIARY OF ANN FRANK or OPERATION AMSTERDAM, who are also shot in claustrophobic black and white. While both stories are fascinating, neither are important in deciding the outcome of the war or even contributing to it in any meaningful way. Never the less don't be put of by that, it's still a reasonable watch!

The determined French train driver/engineer Paul Labiche who masterminds the plan is played by Burt Lancaster, who manages at every turn to get the upper hand over the Germans, but also despite some self doubt manages to rally his colleagues in the French resistance and the rail network to help him do this. The deranged and obsessive German who is given the task to transfer these work of art's is Col. Von Waldheim played by Paul Scholfield and he is supported by the more cool headed Maj. Herren played by Wolfgang Preiss (who had and would continue for a number of years to play numerous German military roles).

The Germans want it transported to Berlin, direct orders from the Fuhrer and Lancasters job is to stop this or delay it's progress in the hope that the allies who are driving the Germans eastwards will over-run them and save the artifacts. Col.Von Waldheim is not only carrying out orders but is also motivated by a personal love for these paintings. Labiche on the other hand has no personal love for them but perhaps emboldened by the German retreat and the impending liberation from US or free French forces. Determined not to allow the Germans who had humiliated them for so long steal in broad daylight some of Frances most valuable artworks, he decides to plan an elaborate scheme to slow the progress down and fool the Germans into thinking that the paintings are actually being transported back to Germany. He can also rely on the support of numerous members of the Resistance and the rail network who also can smell freedom too! Maybe, after suffering the indignity of occupation this was the last opportunity to poke them in the eye! If not for some form of patriotic gesture at least it would just make them feel good after bowing at the knee to the Germans for so long!

True to good form the Germans, torture, shoot and execute anybody that they think is obstructing them. There is even one scene where they place local villagers on a locomotive exposed in such a fashion that the concussion from a bomb placed on the track would kill them instantly, they are in effect "human shields". It's an interesting point, you wonder why many of them knowing that the Germans were on the run didn't just knuckle down or go into hiding and ride out the last few days. Why risk so much?

The ending of the movie was quite poignant. You had the Germans putting vast amounts of man power time and effort into looting these French paintings and harassing the local population, none of this was helping the war effort and Lancaster and fellow Resistance fighters laying their lives on the line, not harassing the retreating Germans but trying to save the paintings. In the end, the final scene sums up the madness of what has unfolded, whether it is Labiches efforts, the German desire to get the paintings or just the war as a whole. Good performances from the lead actors, not a bad watch!
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Silver Streak (1976)
10/10
" A gold star for the silver streak!"
1 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you like movies that are set on trains then this one will be up your street. It's one of the best train movies around and if you are a Gene Wilder fan then it's a real treat. Wilder and his brand of humor were no better than in this film. He was at his best in the 70's and early 80's to so all in all you can't go wrong with this great 70's classic. But that is not just it, Richard Prior joins in about a third of the way through the film and Patrick McGoohan who revels in playing mysterious or devious characters is in his element as the the smooth but the cold and ruthless Roger Devereau who'll go to any length to get what he wants. Also, for James Bond fans there is a small role for Clifton James playing a very similar character than he played in the Bond movies and also Richard Kiel who played one of Deveraux's heavies. The 7 foot actor would go onto play "Jaws" in two up-coming bond movies. Also in support are character actors Scatman Crowthers, Ray Walston and Ned Beatty with Jill Clayburgh playing the heroin.

Wilder plays George Caldwell an average Joe who has a dull job in publishing who decides to take Amtrax's "Silver Streak" from LA to Chicago so he can catch up with some paper work and reading. However, he somehow finds himself involved in a romantic relationship after clicking with fellow passenger Hilly Burns, but that's just for starters. While in Hilly's coach he sees a body being thrown from the train, strangely enough it turns out to be Hilly's boss professor Schreiner who is traveling with her. Caldwell starts to investigate this but soon finds himself way in over his head and is unceremoniously thrown off the train because of his meddling. Fortunately he manages to re-board the train further down the line much to the surprise of Deveraux and co. He soon discovers that Deveraux also knows Hilly Burns but the most shocking discovery is that the professor is alive and well and none the worse for wear. Maybe he did have too much champaign that night, perhaps it was the light playing tricks and he just imagined it? Then again why was he thrown from the train?

There are more questions than answers here and Caldwell not going to be put off decides to continue his investigating now knowing that he has to be less brazen and more cautious than before. So this publisher who was looking for the quiet life now finds himself getting more than he bargained for as he gets involved in espionage and intrigue. Nobody appears to be who they say they are and in the end he puts himself in more hot water as things unravel. Another body turns up but this time Caldwell himself is implicated in the death, so not only are Deveroux's men after him, it turns out the police are too!

Some would say that this is a spoof from a Hitchcock movie, there are similarities from a couple of Hitchocks movies, I would say that this is an adventure and not a spoof like AIRPLANE. It's more an adventure with the awkward and hapless George Caldwell. This type of performance was right up Wilder's street, being at the same time up against the serious Patrick McGoohan, this is why the film works! In the end everybody gets their just deserts and although the finale is somewhat predictable the last scenes are quite spectacular. Good entertainment all round, great outdoor shots of the train and the surrounding country, with an easy-going yet distinctive music score to boot. Not a bad watch at all!
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10/10
Very well done film about Captain Scotts attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole
17 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I have to pinch myself when I see this as I can't believe that it was made all the way back in 1948, almost 50 years ago. The cinema photography is surprisingly good and the music score is haunting and rousing at the same time. The ability to feel that you are with the ill fated team at the South Pole was an incredible feat in it self. The costumes were excellent and the props they used were authentic ones used in Scotts expedition. The outdoor scenes were very effective and the visible deteriaton of Scotts team was probably as good as you could expect from the make up department in the immediate post war years. The acting was very good and the cast were all very believable in their respective roles. The last 40 mins of the movie was the best and you really believed that they were at the South Pole in 1912 not some area in Greenland in 1948. Very absorbing viewing!

The only problem with the movie is that from an historical point of view is that it all paints a very romantic and heroic picture of Scott. Of course as time has elapsed, this view is not shared by everybody. Evidence has come to light, as well as expert opinion and analysis that calls into question this notion and that in fact it was a tragedy created by hubris and basic errors which could have been avoided. Also, were some of Scotts diaries carefully doctored by Scotts wife or things deliberately omitted ? Was the account on Scotts own request changed, or did his wife and relatives take it upon themselves to do this to enhance his image and keep his reputation intact? I've heard stories that raise these questions and seen the occasional documentary which is critical of Scotts actions. Was this all an early 20th Centuary variation on spin? I'll let others argue and speculate over that but I do have a few observations and opinions on this.

Revisionist history questions many things that we have taken for granted over the years and Scotts expedition is just one of many events that is being revised. The idea that people would distort the truth for commercial reasons i.e. to sell a book should certainly not put it past the realm of possibility, even back in 1912. What we do know is that when you just fall short from your objectives you question any number of things that might have made the difference! Man-hauling what was in all intensive purposes was a cast-iron bathtub stacked full of food and equipment over 800 miles was probably not the most efficient way of traveling. The weather conditions were so bad that apparently only three times since 1912 through the next 50 years was it as brutal and so cold. If they had made it to ONE TON base camp many of these questions would ever have been raised.

Remember, there was no satellite navigation, rescue vehicles, helicopters or aircraft and cell phones. These were explorers who were trying to get to the earth's South Pole and return for the first time, There was a lot at stake and risks had to be taken. Do people criticize Irving and Malory for failing to reach the summit of MT. Everest back in 1924. Nobody says that they should have waited 20 or 30 years until they had better equipment! You use the equipment and conditions that you have not the ones that you want! Was it really fair to use dogs, could this not be construed as cheating? Even after being beaten by Amudson by three weeks wouldn't have still been a greater achievement to have done it purely on there own without dogs? Did Scott deliberately just give up at the end, so disappointed at missing out after so much work? Did he think that his reputation would be enhanced if he died rather than make it back? Possibly, but the physical and mental state of Scotts party should not be easily be over looked or dismissed as a contributing factor to them succumbing to the unusually cold conditions. Also, after so many weeks in the bitter cold, under nourished, suffering from malnutrition, frost bite and hunger, 11 miles might has well have been 1100 miles! There are limits to human endurance!

Today, when you here of people dying of hypothermia after just 2-3 days lost in the wilderness, look at what Scott and his team had to put up with. It's not a bad film, you watch it and make your own judgment!
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10/10
"Still great entertainment after thirty odd years"!
16 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to convince anybody today that they could make a thriller/hijack movie with a bunch of middle age actors all men, with a lot of dialog, no cute women wearing tank tops and most of it being seen in either a dull looking subway carriage or else a grim looking New York city subway dispatchers office, ----- they would say that your out of your mind! Well they did way back in 1974, of course it would have to be that far back! All in all absorbing viewing with a great bunch of 70's character actors.

Four men dressed very much in a similar fashion, i.e. horn rim glasses, trilbies, khaki gabardine raincoats and a fake mustache decide to hold hostage a carriage full of bewildered passengers who resemble New York finest type of freak show. A pimp, a foul mouthed hooker, a drunk, a bag lady, a wino well I could go on, you know what I mean! They were led by Mr. Blue played by Robert Shaw a cool no nonsense and ruthless former British army type/mercenary who when his lucrative work dried up decided to use his skills to rob or extort one-million dollars to keep up with the lifestyle he had become accustomed to. He was backed up by a mafia reject, the crazed and unpredictable Mr. Gray who couldn't wait to show who was boss and was keen to rack up a body count, or as he put it "get on the scoreboard"! He didn't like to take orders and it took a lot to keep him in line. There was Mr. Brown and lastly Mr Blue who was a former transit employee who held a grudge against the authority and wasn't satisfied with his pension.

Lieutenant Garber was the head of the transit security played by Walter Matthau who found himself the unfortunate go between or negotiator during the hostage stage. His New York dialect and humor was a great contrast to the methodical leader of the gang with the English accent who took himself very seriously and was prepared to kill anybody at any time in cold blood. Admittedly this type of negotiation would be ridiculous today, he wasn't even in anyway qualified to negotiate with the hijackers. Also, Garber not only had deal with Mr. Green but also found himself up against one of the head dispatchers who couldn't care less about the predicament of the hijacked passengers but was more concerned about getting his trains running on time. This approach would not cut it today 30 years on, hostage taking requires a more professional approach. However, he does his best and on a couple of occasions his quick thinking is able to save the lives of some the hostages.

Anyway the crooks only wanted money, there was no political reason, but were highly motivated, very well organized and determined. This was understood very quickly when one of the subway station managers Caz Dolowicz or known as "fat Caz" took exception to these upstarts and decided berate the hijackers and board the train. Just to prove that the hijackers meant business they gave him a 'lead breakfast' and he was ripped apart by the hail of bullets discharged from an automatic weapon which made him look like a swiss cheese!

It's great viewing, quite entertaining and has a very typical but jazzy 1970's music score that accompanies the movie. I would highly recommend this film, 70's movies don't get more interesting or as watch able as this.
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8/10
" One nation, one people, one leader!"
16 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
You could do a lot of worse things than spend two hours indulging in the ODESSA file. This 1974 production was the second of Frederick Forsyth's trilogy of books that were put onto the big screen in the 70's. Although made in1974 the events meant to be are depicted are supposed to be about 10 years earlier. ODESSA was an organization created by Nazis to help former high profile Germans and members of the SS escape accountability after Germany's defeat in WW II. You would be given false papers, new identities, passports etc and many of them made their way to South America . The most popular destination was Argentina, whose Peronist regime made no secret of it's admiration for Hitler and the Nazi way of thinking. (This only made Argentina's defeat at the hands of the British in the 1982 Falklands war that much more satisfying)! It's a docu/thriller movie lead by actor John Voight who had been elevated to stardom by "Midnight Cowboy" and "Deliverance". He plays Peter Miller a struggling Journalist who was looking to land the big story and is financially supported by his girlfriend Sigi who works at one of Hamburg's nightspots.

After a routine check on a story of a suicide he is given a diary and documents from the deceased who as it turns out was survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. He takes his own life after seeing one of his former tormentors Eduard Roschmann a former camp commandant swanking it up in and exclusive restaurant in Hamburg without a care in the world. What drives him over the top is when he reports this he finds little sympathy from the West German authorities who seem either indifferent and try to fob him off.

After reading an horrific and graphic account of the mans experience at the hands Roschmann, a sickened Muller embarks on his own investigation. He soon discovers the real motives for the ODESSA organization and delves further into this only to the disdain of friends and loved ones who fear for his safety. Soon he also gains the attention of members of the ODESSA organization who don't approve of his meddling. He manages to sneak into a reunion for former soldiers from a crack Panzer division, but unfortunately draws attention to himself. The beating that is handed out as well as an attempt on his life only emboldens him to carry on now knowing he is on to something? He also arouses the attention from members of MOSAD Israels equivalent of the CIA, whose job is to track down former Nazis and dispose of them. After satisfying the Israels that he is not a Nazi, they help him try to infiltrate ODESSA under an alias so he can track down Roschman who by this time he has is own personal score to settle. While reading the former survivors account it appears Roschman may have had something to do with his fathers death who at the time was a decorated soldier in the German army during WWII.

So it's off to the races, can Muller get to Roschmann and find out who else is in ODESSA's secret file before they get to him! You get the impression that this was inspired by the capture of Eichmann and the wish to track down Joseph Mengelie a notorious Nazi physician. It's important that in the 1960's and even 70's many former Germans from WWII were still alive at this time and many of them not only escaped justice but managed to wrangle cushy numbers in business, industry and even in government under new identities. How widespread this really was I'm not sure, I suppose many lower level Nazi party members did manage to start up their careers again although those who committed the real acts were probably better off trying to get out of the country, where I suppose ODESSA came in, a sort of "club south America" for Germans wanting to get away from it all.

The scene in the beer hall during the reunion is a real party piece. Still reveling in nostalgia about the glory days where Germany was feared and respected as they swept all before them, the frenzied gathering is finishes off by singing a rousing rendition of one of the German army's marching songs. In another scene when Muller visits Simon Weisentile (a well known Nazi hunter who made it his life's work to bring them to justice), he tells Muller that money was not a problem for ODESSA. Under the streets of Zurich were paved with gold, presumably gold and other stuff that was looted by the Germans from their Jewish victims, how ironic! Over all not bad movie , Voight was convincing as a German being blond and blue eyed and Maximilian Schell delivers a powerful performance as the arrogant and sadistic butcher Roschmann. It's certainly worth a watch!
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Holocaust (1978– )
8/10
"The first effective docu/drama about the Holocaust!"
15 January 2007
Holocaust was a typical made for TV mini series that were made back in the late 1970's. It followed on the back of the well acclaimed series ROOTS and was later was followed by the WINDS OF WAR and others. Having seen this recently although it's still effective and interesting Holocaust looks a bit wooden and dated by today standards. In addition in the 30 years since there have been a lot of documentaries, movies and other big screen stuff which has perhaps detailed the horrors in a more graphic way as well as providing an even more nightmarish and depressing insight into what Europe's Jews had to endure during Hitler's reign.

It's mostly an American and British cast, typically the Weiss family and the Jews are played by the American actors and the Brits play the Germans. Some of them were well known at the time i.e. Fritz Weaver, Sam Wanamaker and T.P. McKenna . Others such as Ian Holm, James Woods and Meryl Streep would soon become household names.

It follows the fait of the Weiss family and details on an individual basis how they all coped with the changing anti-Semitic conditions in Germany and their suffering until the war was over. Also a German called Erik Dorf was added to the story who was destined for a legal career but decided to join the SS. He moved through the ranks and became one of the most enthusiastic defenders of the final solution. To some extent they were trying to rationalize how well educated people became brain washed. He was played by Michael Moriarty and did not come across as evil, certainly not at the beginning. He never personally carried out killings but just gave orders and watched from the side lines. Watching the change in him as the episodes unfolded is chilling.

Over the years there have been numerous documentaries and movies made which show the hell of the Holocaust but what this series did was tell people things that weren't widely known back in 1978. Although it was well known that the Jews were gassed and put into concentration camps most of my knowledge about this period as well as the war as a whole was based on war films and the British documentary series THE WORLD AT WAR. HOLOCAUST depicts the events that unfolded and how the Jews found themselves in such a hopeless situation! By January 1942 there was to be a fully fledged war against the Jews. The methods of disposal were seemed to be too slow and crude. More efficient ways of extermination had to be found to accelerate the process and make the policy more efficient now that Hitlers initial objectives were unraveling on the eastern front.

When I first watched Holocaust I wondered why the Jews didn't put up more of a fight, why so many of them just went to their deaths? Now watching it today two things struck me. After being dehumanized, humiliated, starved and stripped of dignity, they were simply exhausted, frightened and resigned to their fait. Also, most of them were children, old men and women who up against armed soldiers had no chance. Also their predicament was difficult, where do you hide wearing striped pajamas or a star of David on your tunic? Many escapees were betrayed by neighbors and non-Jews. Indigenous governments either through fear of because of Nazi sympathy just capitulated and cooperated with German requests for the Jews to be deported. Events such as Sobibor where out of the 600 who initially escaped only 60 survived the war, not a great success rate. Also, the Warsaw uprising which was eventually crushed in 1944 only highlighted the futility of their position!

The other point and this arouses controversy is that more people died in the war itself, why concentrate on the holocaust? It's true that many others, political prisoners, and other ethnic groups were massacred too. Also, more money and lives were spent and lost during the war than the killing of the 6 ½ million Jews, why the distinction?

Firstly, the Jews were the largest ethnic group that were killed despite being dispersed all over Europe. Secondly their treatment started way back in the 1930's and of course accelerated up until and in some cases even after the German surrender. Jews were being Killed, massacred and forced on death marches right up until the end of the war. Thirdly, the Germans got the art of killing these none combatants down to a fine art, they industrialized death and suffering in such a way that I don't know if there is anything historically to compare with it? Every step of the way they took away hope and there was a cruel deception right the way down the line, all able bodied were concentrated and enslaved until no longer useful and the others were killed quickly or slowly, which ever suited . By the time they realized what was going on it was too late! They simply never believed the Germans would do such a thing!

It was cruelty towards an ethnic group, whole familys which included, the old, the sick and children were all tormented. The perpetrators of this policy and it's executioners took delight in what they were doing, – – – yes, a sense of delight is the right word. I watched a documentary a couple of years ago where a survivor of a camp a Dutch Jew, I think his name was Joseph Greenberg learned a year after the end of the war that his family were probably all killed on the same day they arrived at the death camp. It still haunted him all these years later. This is the enduring legacy of the perverse and twisted war against Europe's Jews. Well worth watching!
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