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The Naked Archaeologist (2005–2008)
3/10
Too self promoting
20 April 2017
The breaks showing him raising his arms are done too often. His objectivity is flawed because while he explains away and debunks Christian stories or legends, he seems to endorse "miracles" in the Jewish biblical "history." Like Jefferson, I'm willing to discount a lot of the New Testament stories but as for the Jewish bible, I am with Marcion on that.
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A Man for All Seasons (1988 TV Movie)
9/10
In some ways, superior to the Scofield version
19 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched this. In some ways, it is even better than the Paul Scofield version. Why? This shows a more vulnerable Thomas More, one who was afraid and who cries. The Scofield portrayal was rather on the stoic side. Here More is one who could use legal legerdemain to escape condemnation and yet in the end speak forcefully about his secret convictions. And of course, while I have not seen or remember Scofield in other film roles, I must submit that Heston is a very versatile and capable actor. But I admit the Scofield version is one of my favorite films of all time. I must see the latter version again which I have seen three times in original release in theater, on TV broadcast and on beta-tape for better comparison as memory escapes me on key scenes.
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Moses the Lawgiver (1974– )
10/10
A very natural take on Moses
21 October 2013
I saw only the original broadcast mini-series and I was very moved and impressed. Burt Lancaster's portrayal of Moses is very natural, very human unlike the wooden Hollywood versions and I specifically recall Charlton Heston's acting as if he were on-stage in The Ten Commandments. Not Heston'fault though but Cecil B. De Mille's because practically all of the actors and even the extras in that movie acted that way. In some scenes they looked as if they were posing for Rembrandt's Night Watch painting.

Not in this Lancaster version though which portrays Moses with all his faults - his short temper and even disobedience to God. But in one scene where the people of the Exodus were celebrating their deliverance and Aaron worried that they were about to fall into orgiastic idolatry again, Moses showed practical wisdom and said: "Not this time" and allowed the festivities to go on. This TV movie mini-series is really more of a religious and philosophical education rather than mere entertainment.
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Departures (2008)
7/10
A special niche in the funeral professions
19 March 2013
This film revealed to me what I consider to be a very special niche in the funeral professions. I've long known of embalmers, funeral cosmetologists, hearsemen and funeral masters of ceremonies. But this is the first time, I have encountered "encoffiners" who perform the ritual of enconffinment.

I was impressed by the precision and grace of the encoffiners portrayed in the film. They way the cleaned the bodies, their putting on and removal of blankets, shrouds and clothes without exposing any part of the deceased bodies other than their faces, hands and feet showed deep respect. Why do they take such trouble when the body is destined for cremation anyway? Why all the washing, dressing, shaving and make-up? Obviously, they believe in an after life for, after all, they kept using the phrase "sending off" in reference to what they do.

Their measured and reverent movements evoked in me memories of a Tridentine mass performed by a truly devout priest.

I realize that there are those who find this film boring, weird or allegedly inappropriately acted. As someone who worked closely with Japanese and traveled extensively in Japan, I hope to enlighten them on some aspects of Japanese culture through my anecdotes.

On a visit to the ancient city of Kyoto, my boss proudly announced that he was taking me to a "cha-no-yu," a tea ceremony. I wondered what the big deal was because at the time I would rather be attending a Chinese lauriat or even better, go to a karaoke bar in Tokyo's Ginza. Nevertheless, I was deeply moved by the ceremony. First, I was struck by the respect shown to me by the lady who performed the ceremony who practically kowtowed to me. Her actions in the preparation, serving and drinking of the tea reminded me of the mass, the transubstantiation of the wine into the blood of the Savior and communion.

In two dinner visits to the houses of a Japanese executive and of a newsman, I found their hospitality rather formal but very satisfying as well. In both visits a female sat beside me to serve me. In the first instance, she was the matron of the house. In the second, it was a daughter. They way they presented and served food was almost ritualistic. In both cases, the ladies peeled oranges for me and the delightful surprise was not the taste of the oranges but they way they peeled them so that the peelings when laid on the table looked like flowers.

One night in Kumamoto while I was sleeping, I was awakened by the lady of the house who told me that it was snowing and invited me to come out and watch with her. She led me to the living room where there was a large glass picture window. As we sat on our haunches on the floor and watched the snow cover the lawn and the trees, I realized that she considered that a treat and to me, it was.
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Gideon's Trumpet (1980 TV Movie)
Not shown in actor's filmography
18 May 2011
Unfortunately, many will miss knowing about this if they just check on the actor's filmography on this site. It is not explicitly listed. You will have to look for it under Hallmark Hall of Fame.

It is one of Fonda's finest performances reminiscing and rivaling his portrayal of an innocent accused in The Wrong Man. Here, at age 75 he portrays Clarence Gideon who was actually only 53 at the time of the trial in 1963. Obviously, not in health when this was filmed, Henry Fonda's age and frailty adds authenticity and pathos to the character's situation.

It is a landmark movie (for TV) that celebrates a landmark Supreme Court decision that added protection to the rights of the accused by ensuring that they are provided proper legal counsel.
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10/10
Great acting
15 May 2011
As soon as I saw that David Warner was in the cast, I knew that there would be great acting based on a profound script in these episodes (parts I & II). Not that Warner did all of the good acting exuding malevolent gravitas with a touch of ironic and perverse bonhomie; it just seemed that his presence inspired the others to even better acting. Stewart as Picard was at his Shakespearean best. There was also the redoubtable Ronny Cox, whose acting talent has allowed us to suspend disbelief in so many movies. His portrayal of a harsh, by-the-book, unfeeling officer in command undoubtedly made audiences hate him at first. That is, until the end when his actions revealed that he cared for the welfare of Captain Picard after all.

Although broadcast in 1992, I couldn't help but be struck by the immediate currency today (2011) of the moral, legal and psychological issues put forth in the story - torture sanctioned by government, the reliability of information obtained under torture, the psychology of the torturer and the tortured.

In relating his experience under torture to Counselor Troi, Picard brought to light one of the effects of torture that had been in the peripheral vision of my mind but had never articulated: It is often said that the tortured would confess or reveal anything his handlers would like to hear just to stop his torment. But Picard shows that the victim himself would get to believe the lie that he is forced to confess. In other words, he would not be lying but telling the truth as he believes it as a form of psychological defense. In essence, therefore, brainwashing is a consequence of torture. And that is exactly, how some misguided authorities use it - to brainwash.

So in the story, it became obvious, that the purpose of David Warner's character was not to get any kind of truth from Picard, but to brainwash him to get him to confess to some kind of Federation transgression of its treaty with the Cardassian Empire. In that way, the Cardassians may be able to intimidate the Federation into ceding territory to them.

For more about brainwashing in movies, see John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate (1962) with Laurence Harvey in the anti-hero role and also the Ipcress File.
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Fruitful interviews with Darwinists and Creationists. Canterbury Archbishop scores wonderfully.
13 February 2011
Very interesting interviews of both Darwinists and Creationists. Poor cinematography though with only one cameraman making those dizzying shifts from one person to another. I have seen videos by ID proponents, some of them cinematically well done with time lapse sequences, artistic dissolves,frame inserts and obviously shot with multiple cameras at various angles. They have more money?

I liked the interviews with the physician and medical researcher, Dr. Pike, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Rowan Williams and the philosopher of science, Daniel Dennet. I question though Dawkins' insistence on putting down belief in the supernatural instead of just focusing on the probability of natural selection versus the literal interpretation of Genesis which the Archbishop also refutes citing unnamed sources dating back to the second century. I wish His Grace had mentioned names since I thought that St. Augustine in the 5th century was the first to refute those who always interpreted bible literally.

Dawkins came very close to being boorish with Concerned Women of America leader, Wendy Wright, as he sought to demolish the idea of belief in a supernatural Creator. But he was very tame with that grizzly Australian preacher who came up with ridiculous arguments about the alleged absence of evidence for natural selection and even stooping to ad hominem arguments against Darwin implying that he became unbalanced with the death of his eldest daughter at a very young age. Can't fault Dawkins for blowing hot or cold depending on the interviewee. After all the preacher was surrounded by his supporters while Ms. Wright only had a female receptionist. Safety first. I wish we had a strapping, tobacco spitting, ham fisted Darwinist to interview feisty Creationists.

Dawkin's exegesis of the phenomenon of kindness and benevolence among humans as offshoots of gene selfishness as exhibited in some animals which care and protect their kind as a behavior inherited by humans is somewhat thin in logic and probability. The idea is obviously cadged from Desmond Morris who wrote The Naked Ape series who compared the socialization of apes, which must have also existed among early hominids, to that of humans and postulated that the former was transmitted and developed in higher forms among humans. Likewise, Dawkins' substitution of human yearnings for immortality and the numinous with satisfaction and wonder at the mere fact of existence is ultimately unsatisfying. Jung and his followers like Campbell would certainly disagree with him on these points. In any case, personally, I do not think that natural selection alone can account for the diversity and intricacy of life. I tend to lean towards symbiogenesis which, unlike natural selection, focuses on cooperation among organisms rather than on competition. One who is uncomfortable with the theory of evolution because of its premise that natural selection is random, and therefore, undirected would do well to consider orthogenesis as an alternative with its emphasis on linear (as opposed to random)development of species which leads to the conclusion that evolution proceeds on a teleological basis. That means that the development of life ultimately has a purpose. I apologize to my readers for using "telescoping words" that look like jargon. It was done to make this review brief and also to encourage them to look them up to deepen their understanding of the issues involved.

Several interviewees are left out in the list of the cast here like His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, philosopher of science Daniel Dennet, Concerned Women of America president, Wendy Williams, that Australian creationist preacher, the science teachers (in England?) particularly that young woman who was cute and quite incisive in her comments.

The automatic editing on this site is faulty as it insists that words like "literalist" and the "hominem" in "ad hominem" are mistakes. It needs updating as it does not recognize the term "symbiogenesis."
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Super Size Me (2004)
6/10
Documentary states the obvious
13 September 2010
A rather crude documentary with rudimentary camera work and audio effects, this film nevertheless won several awards including for best direction at the Sundance Festival and a Documentary Screenplay Award from the Writers Guild of America with an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary to boot. The obvious reason is that the subject and conclusion of the movie finds relevance and resonance with a lot of people concerned about health and looks.

Morgan Spurlock, writer, director and main "actor" in the documentary who seems like a health buff whose girlfriend is a vegetarian chef, undertakes to eat nothing but McDonald's fast foods for one month. He puts himself under the care of a physician, a nutritionist and various other medical specialists to record his state of health before the experiment and to monitor the "progress" or rather the deterioration of his health in the duration of his experiment. Not surprisingly, his internist, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, several times in the course of the month-long "adventure" strongly advised him to go off the McDo diet as his cholesterol levels shot up to unhealthy parameters as well as the occurrence of deleterious changes to his pulse, respiration and overall resistance under medically controlled stress tests. He also complained of strange tingling sensations in unmentionable parts of his nether region. As for me being an older person whose sensations in the same parts are waning, I would be hard put to say whether that would be an unwelcome development.

As a candidate to become an emergency medical technician (basic), I found the disclosures in the film and the results of Spurlock's experiment alarming. I live in a working class neighborhood where parents (some couples, quite a number - single parents) probably do not have much time to shop fresh food and cook them. I surmise this from my observation that I often see pizza and other fast food deliveries coming and going at all times of the day. I once had a lady neighbor who would go out between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning and come back with boxes of fast foods, coffee and cola drinks for herself and her children. Then in the evening, a pizza or fried chicken delivery person would come ringing at her door. Gazooks! I wondered, how could they stand eating those stuff everyday? As an immigrant to the US only recently turned citizen, I find the partiality of my now fellow Americans towards fried foods worrisome and certainly in conflict with my taste. While I do sometimes enjoy fried chicken, hamburger and chips I would not even contemplate eating fried foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was having an excess of such in my first few months here and for a change I actively searched for a seafood restaurant (in Tampa, Florida). To my disappointment and frankly some disgust, I found that the menu consisted of deep fried battered fish, shellfish, calamari and scallops. While I would eat some fish fried, I would prefer tasting some of the sea in my seafood especially when it comes to scallops, crabs, oysters and clams and that calls for steaming, blanching or putting them into light soups.

The film does not draw definite conclusions, perhaps to avoid lawsuits, but does avert to disturbing correlations between ill-health and fast foods. McDonald's representatives refused to be interviewed by Spurlock. Nevertheless, after its release, McDonald's came out with allegedly healthy items in its menu including salads (alas still loaded with calorie rich cheeses and dressings) and Mexican style corn wraps.

I wonder if there is a correlation between the fact that I often see the blue and white ambulances of my destination rescue station on call in my neighborhood and the fact that many of my neighbors practically subsist on fast foods for their staple diet?
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War and Remembrance (1988–1989)
8/10
Curtis and his staff said this was better than "Winds........
3 July 2010
.....of War" But as reasons, they cited production values centering on shooting locations, authentic sets, care in staging shots, and other technical aspects of production. No one said the very obvious: "Remembrance" is better than "Winds" because of the higher caliber of acting. Jane Seymour's nuanced portrayal of Natalie was certainly better than Ali McGraw's one-dimensional haughty, petulant and flibbertigibbet Natalie. Gielgud was more professorial and a really convincing intellectual Jew compared to Houseman. His delivery of that sermon on the biblical Job as a "stinking Jew" (an epithet Jews were required by the SS to use in introducing themselves in the concentration camps) was very moving. The noble but conflicted Byron characterization by Hart Bochner is certainly not the shallow hot in the pants Byron portrayed by Jan Michael Vincent. For some reason, I also preferred the Warren Henry of Michael Woods over that of Ben Murphy who wasn't bad at all but Woods had the charisma or the "glow about him" that Pamela Tudsbury (Victoria Tennant) described. Polly Bergen's acting or maybe her role as Rhoda much improved in "Remembrance" because in "Winds" she was just this overly excited and artificially cheerful navy housewife bowled over by the seeming glamor of Nazi Germany. Now in "Remembrance" she displays a fuller range of acting descending into regret and downright pathos as she realized that she flirted away her marriage and family. I realize I may not be being fair in blaming the actors named. For all we know, Herman Wouk's screen writing skills improved in the five-year interim between "Winds" and "Remembrance." Similarly, Curtis' directorial savvy may have also improved. And that brings me to the matter of comparison between the book and the screenplay. The film generally succeeds in bringing to the TV audience the gist of the story (stories actually) in "Remembrance," but actually it is not a faithful rendition of the book's narrative. Certain contrivances were used to bring key characters to interact with each other to get the audience into the flow of the epic. For example, in the film Pug and Armin von Roon were personally acquainted or even friends in a sort of way. But in the book they never met as far as I can recall. Admiral Henry was writing a memoir or a postwar analysis of the battles and the conduct of the war and was using a book written by Von Roon as a reference which he was refuting on several points. I was somewhat sympathetic to the Von Roon character in the book but still he was presented as somewhat of an opportunist who supported Hitler as long as he was winning the war and turned against him only when Germany was losing. In the film, however, Von Roon (excellently played by Jeremy Kemp) was shown to be an early critic of Hitler and hinted at as one of the plotters of the failed assassination of the Fuhrer.

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St. Paul (2000– )
9/10
It nearly drove me nuts
19 April 2009
Not paying attention to the opening credits as I was testing my new 42" plasma HDTV, I was torn between assuming that the lead actor portraying Paul was Richard Chamberlain or a look-alike. I settled for the latter but after looking at the other supporting actors, I changed my mind and decided it was Chamberlain after all beneath that beard. What threw me off? The actress who portrayed Dina. I could have sworn that was my favorite underrated actress Linda Purl. So while there were many Italians in the cast, the lead actors were English-speaking and Linda was there, so the lead must have been Chamberlain. But I was mistaken because not only was the actor who portrayed Paul looked like a Chamberlain doppelganger to me, but the Dina wasn't Linda Purl either.

Bailey, who portrayed Barnabas, is a staple supporting actor in many TV series and so for while he had me puzzled as to whether he was another impish doppleganger. He did a great job as a dedicated and slightly comedic disciple.

How about the actor who portrayed Agrippa, a King of the Herodian line who succeeded Antipas? He had a vague resemblance to Sean Connery but I thought "Naah! Couldn't be." Until I heard him speak with that distinctive Connery voice and lisp as well as that masked Scottish accent. Trouble is, the actor for Herod Agrippa is not in the IMDb cast line up at all. I wouldn't be surprised if Connery dubbed for that movie as a sideline though.

The photography, sets, costuming and location shots are great. I particularly liked that slow zooming shot of Apostle Paul as he was in a prison cell in Caesarea Philippi. For one thing, it didn't look like a cell at all but sort of like a garden architecture with what seemed to be a trellis roof covered with straw with beams of sunlight streaming through. Paul is shown writing and the actor's overdubbed voice is reciting that Apostle's lovely epistle on faith, hope and love.

I completely understand why the screen playwrights had to jumble the characters with roles exchanged (as the dialogue indicated) and added a few extra ones. That must have been for the sake of establishing a connecting storyline for all the events in the apostle's life, for brevity and continuity.

My only complaint is that some of the Roman soldiers were skinny and puny. The Roman infantry was the terror of the classical world and they were made up of wiry, sinewy tough men.

Above all, this movie was faithful in presenting some of the earliest doctrines and practices of the Church pushed forth by Paul and Peter.

Peter spoke of his experience seeing a pagan family imbued, filled with the Holy Spirit and exhibiting the charisms. He told the other disciples of his vision when God explained to him that Gentiles may be included in the community despite their non-Jewish customs "as what God hath made clean, thou shalt not call unclean."

There was the First Ecumenical Council at Jerusalem where it was decided that Gentile converts need not submit to Mosaic Law. Of course, James the bishop of Jerusalem who finally worded the encyclical enjoined converts to refrain from blood and the meat of strangled animals, but that too was later put aside thus entirely liberating the gentiles from kosher dietary laws. The film also showed that while Peter was the leader of the early Christians, he did not rule alone but always in unity with the rest of the apostles. Neither was he free from criticism as Paul called attention somewhat harshly to his off and on conformation to Mosaic Law depending on who were watching.

Christian baptism was shown to be done either by aspersion or by immersion. Paul himself was shown as having been baptized by aspersion as they were in the city of Damascus and far from the River Jordan.

Paul's personal suggestion for disciples not to marry to facilitate their mission was well covered too in a dialogue with Barnabas.

This is a movie that should be shown on the networks during Holy Week instead of the 10 Commandments which after all, is not really about Christianity per se but about Judaism.
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Gran Torino (2008)
8/10
Hard Moral Questions Answered
31 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Gee,thanks Clint! After these endless exposes of crimes by sex maniacs among Catholic clergy and their lazy bishop enablers who moved them from parish to parish because they are loath to lose "workers" or simply out of "old boy" sympathies, it is a relief to see a film sympathetic to Catholics, even as we laymen are equally to blame for being equally lazy blind sheep.

It is also refreshing to have Polish Americans depicted as good Catholics instead of the usual Fr. O'Malley (Bing Crosby) Irish types.

It is hard to classify this film as that would be pigeon-holing it as a tragedy, a paean to heroism and therefore a triumph, or simply a good comedy. There are elements of all these. Eastwood made a courageous choice to pay no heed to political correctness as ethnic jokes came fast and funny in the film. The hard ribbing about some American perceptions of Asian diets were hilarious. Sample: Eastwood declining an Asian girl's invitation to a banquet: "No thanks and keep your hands off my dog." "We only eat cats," the girl retorted. In fairness, almost everybody gets hit - even white folks especially "Micks" and "Pollacks." Blacks get it too although unspoken and almost subliminally as gangbang rap music is associated with street hoodlums.

Most important, the main character, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) is portrayed as a good Catholic although not what most people would picture in their minds: the rosary clutching, daily mass going, ascetic who goes about hands pressed together in perpetual pious devotion. Not that there is anything wrong with that but it's fun to see a crusty, beer-swilling, cussing contrary old man turn out to be a good person.

Now for the hard moral questions: Kowalski goes to confession. He doesn't confess the fact that he beat up a Hmong toughie a few days earlier. Obviously, he didn't think that was a sin because he did it to stop the punk's gang from continuously hunting down Thao, the Hmong youth trying to straighten out his life. Educated armchair moralists may say "the end does not justify the means" but remember, Kowalski is just a retired auto line worker and part-time repairman. Still another seeming lapse of conscience: As he tried to dissuade Thao from embarking on mindless vengeance, he intimated that in the Korean War, he shot a young boy (soldier) who was probably scared and just trying to surrender. He didn't include that in his confession. No problem. His perception of that wartime incident is a recollection quite probably colored by post traumatic stress disorder, old age and failing health. In the heat of battle, he was just shooting at enemy soldiers as he was force-trained automatically to do. Kowalski must have known that was the case. That's why he saw no need to confess it. I believe Christ Himself would have directly told him "Ego te absolvo..."

Here's the spoiler: John 15:13. That's exactly how the movie ended.
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8/10
Nelly Bly - pioneer women's libber
5 April 2008
Linda Purl channels Nelly Bly, a true-to-life early women's libber who proves that the fair sex can become a police beat reporter. Eschewing assignments in the leisure and fashion sections of her newspaper, she ventures into investigative reporting, a journalism category in which she pioneered. She volunteers to go undercover to investigate and consequently expose the abuses going on in a women's asylum.

Production value is high with careful stagesetting of architecture and mode of transport characterizing New York of the 1880s.

I've always wondered why Purl, who projects magnetically on screen, didn't become a bigger actress. From starring roles on TV, she later slid into supporting roles. In any case, I was an early fan and I intend to view more of her quite extensive body of work.
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7/10
A photographer without talent turns to crime and is stalked by one of his victims.
12 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Johnny's last name is Scardino so why did they call him Skidmarks? Although it wasn't explained in the movie, it is obvious that the moniker had something to do with his occupation - a crime and accident scene photographer. He took photos of vehicle skid marks, see? It seems that Skidmarks was not a regular police employee but a freelance photographer who got assignments from the cops to take photos of crime scenes, similar to a reporter on "string" basis. Obviously, he didn't have much talent otherwise he would have been into photography involving advertising, modeling, art or whatnot. He reminds me of itinerant photographers who used to frequent parks, churches and tourist spots and overcharged for their unimaginative photos.

And so Skidmarks made a living taking flash photos of gruesome scenes. As long as the pictures were clear and showed everything the investigators wanted, they were OK. Doubtless his dreadful job had made Johnny morally numb. He really didn't even "see" the subjects of his photos. Which was why he was into a blackmailing racket where his co-conspirators faked police raids while he took photos of men caught in compromising positions with prostitutes. In one of these raids, the victim turned out to be a "friend," a detective in the police force who frequently engaged his services. But because he has been so inured to the reality of crime and the unpleasantness he encountered daily in his work, he did not recognize his friend. It seems that he completely detached himself from the scene so that he did not hear his friend's pleas to help him.His failure to do so leads to a series of murders.

This is certainly not a "feel good" movie. It is tragic but not a tragedy because the hero lacks both honor and hubris. Nevertheless, it is a riveting watch as it combines character study and suspense. One's sympathy goes out to both Skidmarks and the murderer who whacked the members of his gang and stalks him.
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Search (1972–1973)
9/10
Latching on to the superspy genre, this excellent series failed to peak in popularity
30 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As the superspy genre on TV degenerated into cartoony comedy as the later episodes of Man from Uncle did, this series' updated spook gadgetry such as the use of remote viewing with telemetry analysis and diagnosis via rings and tie clips worn by the Probe agents. The whole premise however became prosaic and cheesy with the arrival shows like the Bionic Man/Woman with over the top gadgetry that practically turned the characters into robots.

Probe was the title of the pilot episode which starred Hugh O'Brian as the field agent. Retitled as Search for the series, each episode had him, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosca on a round robin basis reminiscent of The Four Just Men of '50s vintage.

O'Brian plays the cool, handsome ladykiller and perfect secret agent to the hilt while Doug Mclure portrays the vulnerable and consequently more sympathetic spook complete with various gaffes and goofs. Tony Franciosca channels it like a Mickey Spillane school of hard knocks private eye with a liberal sprinkling of the inimitable Franciosca humor.

But the absolutely coolest thing on this show for me is the theme music. Couldn't find a track of it so I would actually turn off the radio when driving to play it in my head ---- tuhtuhrahrahrahrah - tararah- rah-rah. Great! Caught the theme recently on You Tube and there are two very similar versions, one for Probe and the more refined one for Search.
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6/10
A navy pilot is a reluctant warrior who does his duty anyway.
20 June 2007
Although made three years earlier than John Wayne's inane Jet Pilot (1957), this film is superior in plot (it is a Michener after all), aerial combat staging, photography, acting and in everything else. Carrier operations are shown in much detail making those familiar with them realize that little has changed in running those floating military airports. The catapult launching, the recovery using tailhooks and nets, use of the "tilly," a kind of gantry on wheels to move disabled planes --- all these remain essentially the same. The flagman signaling to the incoming pilot as to his position in relation to the deck, however, is today a rare sight. With the development of avionics, the pilot nowadays is electronically hooked on to the carrier's sensors telling him how the deck is inclined (it's a ship pitching on the waves, remember) so he could approach it at the correct angle for a safe landing.

Although made with the US navy's and presumably the Department of Defense's cooperation, the film does try to balance between the jingoistic rant of "cold warriors" prevalent at that time and the peace lovers. The intervention in Korea is justified by the Admiral (portrayed by Frederic March) so that they wouldn't have to fight the enemy on American soil. Commander Brubaker (William Holden), however, feels that he is "in the wrong war, in the wrong place."

The bombing run scenes are magnificent in their scope and the superb flying of the pilots in the smart looking Panthers are memorable.

Compare with The Hunters, another film about the Korean war starring Robert Mitchum and Bob Wagner as Air Force pilots.
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6/10
Lawrence Harvey, Scottish knight in copper colored armor
13 June 2007
Saw it on its second release in 1962. I liked it then and recalling several scenes, I still like it. First, I fancied Sir Kenneth's very unusual armour which was a deep copper color. I had seen silver and gold finish armor in movies, even shiny black but this was the first time I saw copper colored armour. But wait, in Samson and Delilah (with Victor Mature) the shields and breastplates of the Philistines were made of copper.

Memorable is the scene when Sir Kenneth introduces himself to King Richard (portrayed by George Sanders) in Gaellic. Although used to foreign knights as the Crusades were after all a multinational mission of Christian kingdoms, the King nevertheless was surprised that he couldn't discern the language spoken by Sir Kenneth. When the latter informs him that it was Gaellic, George Sanders' blue eyes flashed and he said: "One of the Scotsmen! I swear as soon as this crusade is over and the Saracens are defeated, I will bathe their miserable country in their blood." Or something to that effect. Remember in the 11th century,England and Scotland were rivals in power and were constantly at war over borders with England always trying to subjugate the Scots.

I always enjoy listening to George Sanders' rich voice and very cultured but manly intonation which can sometimes be reassuring but at times menacing. His voice over of Bagheera the tiger in Disney's The Jungle Book with its range of moods is superb.

The battle and dueling scenes were very good.
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5/10
Alan Ladd is an acrobatic knight
11 June 2007
I liked it only because I fancy swords and medieval armor. However, you're not going to learn anything factual nor fascinating about medieval combat here unlike in Robert Taylor's Ivanhoe or Knights of the Round Table.

The character portrayed by Alan Ladd wears an abbreviated armor eschewing the greaves and other gear to protect the legs and arms. Save for the breastplate and chain mail (short sleeved at that!), there is little to suggest that he wears authentic knightly armor. Even his helmet covers only the top of his face (no doubt to display his handsome features.) Robocop is the same way. The reason for the light armor becomes apparent when Ladd performs acrobatics in combat unlikely to have been part of a knight's dueling or battle paces. Robert Wagner in Prince Valiant does similar things.

The heroic Black Knight is actually a commoner and thus barred from bearing knightly arms and so has to keep his identity secret.

The villains are a Saracen knight (Peter Cushing) allied with Cornishmen. Why the people of Cornwall who are as British as the English? Beats me.

Cushing gives a luscious performance as a baddie. His quip after humiliating the blacksmith Alan Ladd before his lady love (Patricia Medina) is memorable. After failing to egg the meek Alan Ladd into fighting him, he turns to Patricia saying: "Please pardon this shameful exhibition."

The photography and location shots are excellent.
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The Outer Limits: I, Robot (1964)
Season 2, Episode 9
9/10
A robot is accused of killing his creator and is placed on trial for "its" life.
28 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is the first original story entitled "I Robot." Isaac Isimov did have an anthology of his positronic robots stories published as a book with the same title. Asimov explained that the title was his editors' idea but he realized that there was another older story of the same title. Published in 1939 in Amazing Stories, it was written by the brothers Earl and Otto Binder under the pseudonym Eando Binder. They also wrote the teleplay for this distinguished Outer Limits episode. In fact, not one of the stories in the Asimov anthology was entitled "I, Robot." This episode also has nothing to do with the movie of the same title which starred Will Smith and which, as in the case of Bicentennial Man (starring Robin Williams), acknowledged reference of the Three Laws of Robotics formulated by Asimov which were supposed to govern robotic behavior.

I was much touched and fascinated by this story when I first saw it as a 15-year old. The robot design is now crude by present-day standards. It even spoke with a mechanical monotone which nevertheless added to its charm. When asked why he killed his creator, he replied: "It was an accident" with such a tone.

According to the DA's theory, the scientist who created the robot unconsciously transferred some of his personality and flaws into "it." Allegedly, the brilliant scientist was claustrophobic. So when he was trying to pack the robot to ship it to another site, it panicked and flailed about knocking the old man dead.

Actually what happened was that a heavy shelf dropped on the old man. As the robot tried to lift the shelf, a workman walked in who totally misinterpreted the scene and thought that the robot beaned the scientist with the shelf.

The robot is brought to trial and the courtroom scene was riveting as the defense attorney argued passionately citing the previous displayed benevolent behavior of the robot. In the end, however, the judge found the robot guilty and sentenced him to be sent to a facility where he would be dismantled. He could have escaped at anytime but the robot with dignified stoicism accepts the fate decreed for him by humans. The ending scene has the robot breaking free of his guards outside the courthouse to save a little girl about to be hit by the prison wagon sent to fetch him. He throws the girl out of the car's path and was effectively dismantled in the resulting collision. He proved to be more humane than the real humans.
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6/10
An interesting portrayal of a young dedicated socialist and pacifist who ultimately betrays his beliefs and his comrades.
1 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Don't expect any war action here despite the cover of the disc case which shows the putative Mussolini in jackboots with warplanes overhead in the background. This is the story of a young Mussolini, a dedicated socialist and pacifist, and his descent into unbridled egotism and corruption.

This movie made me brood over the irony of a great ideology and movement put forth by noble-minded men like Proudhon and Engels which nevertheless became the spawning ground of selfish egotists like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. While espousing the international brotherhood of men and social equality, socialism was diverted by men like these into the monstrous ideologies of Nazism, Fascism and atheistic Communism. There, I think lies the fault - in the atheistic cosmology formulated through dialectical materialism wedded by Marx into socialist ideology. With subsequent discoveries in quantum physics, it can be said that a universe viewed through a materialistic cosmology (based on a misunderstanding of "matter") has not only become passé but untenable. After all, we now know that matter in its traditional definition is equatable to energy; that our perception of matter as solid, liquid or gas is merely a function of our senses as it perceives the force fields generated by atomic structures; that the universe as we can now perceive it with our instruments is made up largely of "dark matter" (96%) about which we know almost nothing about except that it exists.

That is why, these days, I am inclined to side with professor Sidney Hook who taught that Marxist cosmology is actually unnecessary in socialist Marxist ideology as there is little or almost no connection between it and its political economy (social analysis). As a matter of fact, later "Marxists" like Herbert Marcuse and Lucien Sebag (Marxisme et Structuralisme) thoroughly ignored Marx's cosmology or ideas on the origins of the universe. The good priests and nuns who espoused Liberation Theology" took this path, using Marxist analysis of social conditions (the "superstructures" of unjust society) to fight for the oppressed while wholly ignoring the atheistic supposed underpinnings (they didn't pin anything at all) of Marxism.

The makers should be praised for great location shooting that captured the looks and ambiance (as I imagine it) of very early 20th century Italy.
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The Party (1968)
6/10
"In India we do not think who we are. We know!"
31 January 2007
Today, Bakshi (Sellers) can be viewed as a prototype "Borat" in that he pokes fun at the cultural misunderstandings between the East and West. In a quarrel between Bakshi and an opportunistic movie mogul pawing Michele (Claudine Longet), the Westerner indignant at being deprived of his prey, asks the Indian :"Just who do you think you are?!" To which Bakshi replies: "In India, we do not think who we are. We know!" On the level at which this exchange took place, this is of course a joke. But it is also funny from a philosophical point of view. Western philosophy is dominated by Aristotelian philosophy which is ultimately subjective in that existence is viewed largely from the self and what Aristotle called the "apprehension" of reality. Descartes turned this idea on its head by saying that he knew he existed because he thinks. Both hypotheses are invalid in Hindu philosophy where worldly existence is viewed as pure illusion ("maya")and all that we think exists (including ourselves) is only an idea in the mind of God. This view is well represented in Greek philosophy by Plato who wrote of a perfect "world of ideas" from which the material existence of things in this world derives.

When I was growing up, I usually heard horror stories from Filipino relatives living in the West about how they got in trouble or suffered embarrassment because they cooked oriental food or ate them in the presence of people of Anglo-Saxon descent. In 1958, my lady cousin was the subject of a complaint in the apartment building where she lived in Saginaw Michigan because some tenants complained of the "awful" smell of the garlic she used in her sauté. But today, Americans in the major cities, at least, are probably the most knowledgeable about cuisines of the world. I bring this up because in the movie, the Sellers character inadvertently dips his fist into a bowl of caviar and he was nauseated when he brought up his hand near his face. Westerners display the same expression when they come upon fermented fish paste and dips common among peoples of Southeast Asia. I guess that's why we have the adages:"To each his own" and "There's no accounting for taste."

A southerner who has gone to the Far East asked me if I eat the delicacy called "balut" in the Philippines. The Thais, Vietnamese and Cambodians refer to it by other names in their respective languages and you can find it here in the US in many oriental groceries. Bluntly and scientifically put, it is simply the semi-developed fetus of a duck still in its shell and suspended in amniotic fluid. It is boiled and touted by some as a fortifier for those in ill health or even as an aphrodisiac. The amniotic fluid tastes like a most excellent soup. Most Americans I know are simply turned off in shock at this description. Even today, I get quizzical looks at work when I answer questions about what I am eating. Pickled jellyfish and black century eggs, what else? But guess what? I have a southern cookbook printed in the 1930s that has dressing procedures and recipes for possum, raccoon and squirrel.

But this is neither here nor there about the movie. I have nostalgic feelings about the young Claudine Longet with the wispy, whispery voice and cute French accent singing : "Theenk of rennnn..." ("Think of Rain"). She was one of my absolute favorite female chanteuses of the 1960's along with Astrud Gilberto. Alas! As an aging beauty she committed a crime of passion killing a two-timing boyfriend who was dumping her. She was acquitted for some reason and didn't go to jail for it.
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Cold War Killers (1986 TV Movie)
6/10
Tightly woven story about alleged Soviet attempt to hide a skeleton in the closet
24 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Pay close attention and don't even munch on popcorn and nuts while viewing this movie. If you miss any of the dialog you'll miss much of the sense of the plot and even worse, the charming human interaction especially among the characters played by actors Sautoy, Stamp and Sachs.

It is inappropriately titled for cinema release though because there are practically no scenes of killings which were only briefly mentioned several times. The fade outs at crucial moments clued me on to the fact that it is a TV production. All that was lacking would have been the legend: "Place advertisement here."

The plot revolves about a couple of boxes stolen by an "enterprising" WWII RAF pilot thought to contain treasure of some kind. We are led to believe for a while that it is Nazi loot, even improbably, part of the Tsar's crown jewels. What it really was were documents revealing that top Soviet Red Army general staff were negotiating with Hitler during the war to overthrow Stalin and make Russia a member of the Axis Powers. That would have led to the defeat of the West. That, to my mind, was even more improbable than the yarn about the Tsar's crown jewels.
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An alleged biography of Chopin
31 December 2006
Good production value. Note that the property master took pains to put the Chopin character on a Pleyel piano (was it real?). Cornel Wilde's good looks adds to the sumptuousness of the sets. But the real Chopin was not even a tenth as handsome.

It compares badly with Song Without End (about Franz Liszt) because Dirk Bogarde probably really knew something about piano playing as his fingerwork and body English while playing were very credible. In contrast, we only get mostly frontal shots of Wilde as Chopin on the piano and we never see his hands.

While supposedly the hero of the story, the film inadvertently portrays Chopin as an ingrate to his music professor and as a tepid nationalist who eventually turned his back on his own country only to relent and try to make up for his neglect. Not only that, Chopin here is something of a kept man of a man-eating virago - the writer George Sand portrayed here by Merle Oberon which was a waste of her beauty.
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500 Nations (1995)
10/10
An engrossing exposition of the tragic Amerindian history
3 December 2006
For people of European descent who believe that their ancestors brought enlightenment and "civilization" to the Americas, this should be a lesson in humility. For among the some 500 native American nations, there were those that practiced direct democracy (the Oneida), built cities, organized federations of tribes (the Sioux) and administered empires (the Aztecs and Incas).

The tragic history of the native Americans is laid bare as hitherto little known details as to how they were systematically deprived of land, food and sometimes outrightly massacred are brought to light. Most shocking was the revelation that US government officials murdered Amerindians in reservations by giving them blankets used by victims of smallpox. Moreover, moving them to reservations far from their native environment deprived them not only of food but also of the plants that they used as medicine. The buffalo was hunted to near extinction by government hired hunters like Buffalo Bill in order to starve the Plains Indians. The Cherokee who adapted to the white man's culture, became successful farmers and entrepreneurs were disenfranchised - their properties seized and the whole nation sent to reservations. The episode about the "Trail of Tears" was heart wrenching.

The most interesting part for me was the exposition of the North Amerindians' cosmological and religious beliefs. For example, one North American nation believed that God placed them in an ideal world akin to paradise. This would imply that they do not long for an afterlife.

I don't know if it was in this series, but I recently found out that the Black American Indian contingent in the New Orleans Mardi Gras is not merely the product of fiesta fantasy. Those people really have a claim to native American ancestry as when the US army and the settlers were exterminating the Indians, African Americans in Louisiana absorbed those coming their way into their community to protect them. I understand some of the Seminoles who were hunted into the everglades of Florida managed to find their way into the black community of New Orleans. This resulted in an admixture of the two races. This brings to mind the American blacks who were in the US invading force during the Philippine-American War who joined the Filipinos. Obviously, they saw the war as a battle between races and it they decided they belonged to the colored side. Unfortunately, they were later captured and executed.

If you like movies that are sympathetic to the Amerindians, see also Soldier Blue, Dances with Wolves, The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Geronimo: An American Legend.
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6/10
An incisive view of Italian bureaucracy and social hierarchy
19 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A rightist plot to stage a coup d'etat against the Italian government is foiled by a Captain in the Carabinieri. Led by industrialists, high ranking government and military officials, some of whom hold noble titles, the plotters control vital sectors of the state that they seemed unstoppable but for the dogged determination of a middle ranking police officer (Franco Nero) and a detective (Martin Balsam).

The plot and the events surrounding it are too complicated to be condensed in an average length movie and so it was a bit confusing. Nevertheless, it manages to convey the plausibility of a right wing coup against the Italian government. After all, many communists and socialists were seated in parliament during this period and they controlled the countryside municipalities through their mayors. Of course, the captains of industries, the nobility, their allies in the military elite and government bureaucracy, did not like that. My appreciation of the movie heightened when serendipitously, I chanced upon a copy of the Morris L. West novel of the same title.

It is interesting to note that Italians still use noble titles like "principe" and "principessa." But these are not necessarily, the offspring of kings but may be compared to the English earls. Remember that for much of the medieval period, Italy was divided into city states some of which were nominally under the Holy Roman Emperor who did not brook the presence of kings except for his own relatives like the King of Sicily. There is also the unique Italian noble title of "Falconeri," who must have been the falconer of a Grand Duke. Perhaps we can compare him to a Hapsburg baron.

Italians are great designers of uniforms (among other things such as cars) and it shows in this movie. The Captain dons at least two different uniforms in various scenes and his formal or gala dress was interestingly cool. That golden flame insignia on his officer's cap caught my eye.
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Zigzag (1963)
5/10
Murder witness suffers from hysterical blindness and amnesia.
26 October 2006
I saw this movie on its original and I guess, only release but I can't remember much of it although I thought it was good for a low budget movie made in the Philippines. Made in the noir style, the plot involves a young woman who had a traumatic experience leading to partial amnesia and hysterical blindness. It is believed she witnessed a murder. A love song from the Visayas (a region in the Philippines) called Dandansuy eerily played on the piano somehow revives her memory and restores her sight.

Now about the title, I believe it had something to do with a portion of that mountain road called Kennon starting from the foothills of La Union Province and leading into the Philippines' gold mining capital, Benguet Province and finally to the resort city of Baguio. A portion of it indeed consists of tight zigs and zags which is a challenge for unskilled motorists. This comes near the top leading to Baguio City, a mountain resort city which the Americans caused to be built in the 1920's with Philippine money and imported Japanese labor. The American administrators could not stand the very humid tropical "summer" heat in Manila so during that season they retreated to the cool and pine scented mountain air of the Cordilleras of which Baguio City is a part. Thus, the tiny city has its own Governor's Mansion and nearby is a network of other houses for the members of his cabinet. Not to be outdone the justices of the Supreme Court also have their own compound of summer residences. In hindsight, I realize that the tortuous mountain road was built not only for the comfort of the American administrators but also to facilitate the extraction of precious metals, chiefly gold, from the massifs of Benguet Province. From then on, Baguio became a famous tourist destination prized for its cool climate, spectacular mountain views and for its vegetation which at over 3000 meters differs markedly from the nearby lowlands. Kennon is the name of the army engineer who supervised the building of that road.

Its main street is aptly named Session road because during the Commonwealth era, the Philippine Legislature held their sessions there during the hot season and has since become the venue for conferences.

I believe a chase and fight scene at the famed Zigzag road figures at the end of the film. The other parts of the movie were shot practically in the neighborhood of my childhood in Pasay City, now part of Metropolitan Manila on a street formerly favored by American expatriates working in the Philippines probably because the U.S. Embassy is nearby on Dewey blvd. The palm lined boulevard famous for its view of the Manila Bay sunset has since been renamed Roxas blvd., after a Philippine president.
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