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Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst

Excellent Account of the Amethyst Incident:
"Yangtse Incident" ("Battle Hell" is a dreadful alternate title) is an excellent account of the Amethyst Incident. Although little-remembered today, the incident made international headlines at the time for the courage, resourcefulness and determination of the crew of the beleaguered British frigate, HMS Amethyst. It also marked the end of a century of foreign nations exercising "gunboat diplomacy" along the inland waterways of China. Although the issue is barely touched upon in the movie that circumstance, imposed upon China by numerous foreign powers through unequal treaties, was a one which all the Chinese, and not just the Communists, had been coming regard as increasingly intolerable over the years.

However, it is not the political situation that is the central focus of the film, but the actions of the beleaguered British seamen who found themselves caught up in a desperate situation not of their own making. In that regard, "Yangste Incident" is comparable to "Zulu", another fine British film based upon a real historical event in which a small detachment of British soldiers also found themselves, through circumstances beyond their control, having to fight their way out of an impossible situation.

Of course, as is usually the case in movies of this kind, much has been left out. For example, many years after the fact, I actually met a man who had served on the Amethyst during the Yangtse Incident. At that time he held the rank of "Boy, First Class". He had much to say about Lt. Cmdr. Kerans, the officer who assumed command of the ship after the captain was killed. One thing I recall was his pointing that Kerans' post at the time, that of Assistant Naval Attache, was actually considered to be a dead-end job for an aspiring professional naval officer, and that Kerans was actually an officer who was considered to have very little future in the Navy. Needless to say, his conduct during the Yangtze Incident completely turned that situation around for him.

Although British films frequently featured American actors in order to attract American viewers, in "Yangtse Incident" all the leading roles are played by British actors. The only "American" actors in evidence are Akim Tamiroff, and Keye Luke, both of whom are cast as Chinese "baddies". Akim Tamiroff had previously portrayed a Chinese General in "The General Died At Dawn, so the role was not new to him. Of course, Keye Luke portrayed Chinese characters throughout his long career, most famously during the 1930s as Charlie Chan's "Number One Son" and, decades later, as "Master Po", the Shaolin Sage in "Kung-Fu".

Another, and perhaps more glaring, omission, is any mention of "Simon". The film provides only a brief, fleeting glimpse of Simon, and no mention whatever is made of him, or his remarkable part in the story. Badly wounded by shrapnel in the initial attack, Simon, the Amethyst's cat, was not expected to survive. However, he not only recovered. but resumed his duty as the ship's rat-catcher, which proved an invaluable service considering the limited amount of food available to the crew on board the ship. Afterwards, when Simon's story became known, his heroism was recognized by the award of the "Dicken Medal", the highest award for valor for animals, sometimes referred to as the "Animal's V.C".

However, perhaps the real centerpiece of the film is the presence of HMS Amethyst herself, as the filmmakers used the actual ship as the movie set. That sort of verisimilitude is simply not possible using CGI special effects.

Top Banana

Great Performances, But a Dreadful Movie,
This is a dreadful movie. However, the problem with this movie is in the production, not the performances. Phil Silvers and his supporting cast were great. "Top Banana" is essentially a showcase for old-time burlesque comedy presented by Phil Silvers and company, all of whom were veteran burlesque comics. In fact, the very title of the movie, "Top Banana", is an old burlesque term for the lead comic in a burlesque show, who's was invariably supported by a "Second Banana".

"Top Banana" was a long-running hit show on Broadway. The problem with this movie is that it is basically nothing more than a filmed version of the original stage show, and a very badly-filmed version, at that. The scenes are static, which is what one would expect when the director id doing nothing any more creative than to have a single fixed camera film a show being presented upon a stage. Worse that that, however, is that the movie is poorly edited, disjointed, chaotic and often incoherent. One can only suppose that Phil Silvers and company must have been appalled when they finally saw what a mess the movie studio had made of their hit Broadway show.

Shackleton's Captain

I am in awe of all these men
I read about Shackleton's expedition many years ago. Having spent 30 years going to sea, and having experienced some pretty terrible conditions, I am still in awe of these individuals. Worsley's feats of navigation in getting the expedition to Elephant Island, as well as the subsequent voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia stand among the greatest achievements in the history of navigation. As if that weren't enough, the men followed that up by crossing the island of South Georgia on foot, something which no one had ever done before, with nothing but a length of rope and a carpenter's adze. I don't know how they made it, except that they simply knew that failure was not an option. Although the movie centers on Captain Frank Worsley, these were all truly iron men, of a sort whose like we shall never see again. For example, First Mate Frank Wilde deserves a tremendous amount of credit for keeping the shipwrecked survivors on Elephant Island alive for over four months, during which they had no idea whether rescue was ever going to come. And, of course, although the film plays down Shackleton's contributions in favor of Worsley's, it was Shackleton who was the supreme leader, "The Boss", who held everyone together throughout the entire ordeal.

This is one of the most incredible true stories you will ever see. If anyone ever wrote this story as a work of fiction, no publisher would ever accept it because they would consider it too far removed from realm of possibility. However, this all actually happened just the way it is depicted here. They even brought back the pictures to prove it, thanks to the expedition's photographer, Frank Hurley. This film will make Hollywood action-adventure movies seem tame by comparison.


Interesting idea, but should have been much better.
Cosmos presents an interesting idea, but does not present it particularly well. For one thing, this two-hour movie uses up an entire hour before anything actually happens. Secondly, the characters spend the entire film murmuring, mumbling and whispering, so that it is usually difficult to figure out what it is that they are saying or what it is that they are trying to accomplish. Third, the aforementioned circumstance is rendered even worse by an overpowering film score which makes it even more difficult to understand what the murmuring characters are saying, and which I found particularly annoying. Lastly, the filmmakers decided to throw in a totally gratuitous and completely unnecessary high-speed car sequence. Presumably, the filmmakers decided that, since the rest of the movie was so static (it takes place almost entirely inside a parked car) they needed to throw in at least one "action" scene.

Crime Doctor

First of a World War II-era "B-Picture" Series:
"The Crime Doctor" was the first of a series of WW-II-era "B-Picture" mysteries based upon a popular radio series. During WW-II many well-known leading actors left Hollywood to enlist in the military, including such famous stars as James Stewart, Leslie Howard, David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Robert Taylor and Henry Fonda. As a result, the movie industry had to fall back upon well-known actors who had once been popular stars, but who were now becoming older, and would otherwise probably not be have been engaged for leading roles. One such actor was Warner Baxter, formerly a well-known and popular leading man who, though now in his 50s, was clearly still capable of getting the job done.

In this case Baxter portrays a character of indeterminate age, but one who is clearly not necessarily a young man. He has had been suffering from amnesia for the past ten years after being found beside the road suffering from a head injury. Although he has no knowledge of his previous life, the implication is that he had formerly been some sort of criminal. In an effort to recover his memory (and despite his age and the fact that he has no identity or credentials), he enrolls in medical school and becomes a psychiatrist.

At that time psychiatry was still fairly new and revolutionary, and books and movies concerning the work of psychiatrists were very popular. It was during that period that Hollywood produced films well-known such as "Kings Row" and "Now, Voyager", both of which were heavily involved with psychiatry. Clearly, "The Crime Doctor" series was intended to cash in on that popularity.

"The Crime Doctor" is typical of the sort of low-budget "B-Picture" movies series that Hollywood produced during the war years. While they were not bad, their production values were clearly constrained both by budget and time. However, they provided employment to a lot of talented people who would otherwise have been unemployed, and they provided a brief escape for audiences during a period when the entire world was plunged into a conflict, of which the outcome was still not yet certain.

Route 66

They probably couldn't make a series like this today
This was a great series. However, it occurs to me that they probably could not make a series such as this today. Think about it: every episode was filmed on location in a different part of the country, to which a different set of actors had to be brought, and for which an original script had to be written that had to be relevant to that particular location. Such a television series would probably be prohibitively expensive to produce nowadays. Added to which, consider that it was necessary for the two principal actors (Martin Milner and George Maharis) and the rest of the crew to remain "on the road" for long periods of time while the series was in production.

Dog Soldiers

Night of the Living Were-HIghlanders
A squad of British soldiers is dropped off by helicopter deep in the Scottish Highlands for a routine training exercise that goes violently awry. Pursued through the woods by an unknown number of mysterious killers, they end up taking refuge in a remote cottage to make a stand. Along the way they fall in with a wounded Special Forces officer and a mysterious woman, both of whom know more than they will say and both of whom may or may not be trustworthy. The result is a cross between "Night of the Living Dead", a 1980s American mad-slasher movie and "Zulu". The story does not aways make sense and some loose ends exist (for example, it is never explained why a dead cow suddenly drop out of the sky into the middle of the soldiers' camp fire). Nevertheless, "Dog Soldiers" is fast-paced, violent and keeps it's audience on the edges of their seats.

Blade Runner

All shine and no substance
I saw this when it came out, and I didn't like it. I just saw it again for the first time in many years, and I still don't like it. I know a lot of people live this movie due to it's lush and highly-detailed staging. However, I don't like it for exactly that reason. Ridley Scott put all his effort into set decoration and staging, and absolutely no effort whatsoever into story or character development.

"Blade Runner" takes place in a future (for 1982) Los Angeles where it rains ALL THE TIME, where it is always night and never day and where, for reasons that are never explained, nobody ever turns on a light switch. The only lights at all are generated by garish, flashing advertisements that, for reasons that are never explained, nobody ever shuts out by drawing the curtains. If I lived in such a place I would draw my curtains and switch on my lights but, as I say, in the Los Angeles of the future, it seemingly never occurs to anybody to do that.

The plot, where there is of it, revolves around a policeman whose job is to kill cyborgs who are supposed to live only "off-world" when they escape and return to Earth. However, unlike every other policeman I have ever heard of, he is expected to carry out his duties alone, without any back-up, and completely unsupported. There is one police character who dogs his tracks but, for reasons that are never explained (a lot in Blade Runner is never explained) he seems to constitute more of a nuisance than a help. In fact, he seems to have been assigned solely to keep tabs on the main character, rather than to aid him in any way.

The cyborgs have several opportunities to kill the main character which, for reasons that are never explained, they each bungle clumsily. These cyborgs, who are supposedly super-human, super-strong killers, simply can't seem to bring themselves to kill this guy. Mostly they fail because they are too busy showing off to kill him. However, I suppose that, if they simply killed him, there would be no movie.

Blade Runner might have made a good 1/2-hour "Twilight Zone", or 1-hour "Outer Limits" episode. However, it simply doesn't have enough substance for a full-length motion picture. Consequently, Ridley Scott pads it out lots and lots of shots of dystopian scenery which had absolutely nothing to the story.

Tales of the Rat Fink

A Southern-Californian Peter Pan:
I just came across this film. I never heard of it before, but I do remember the subject. There was a time when I thought Ed Roth and his cars were "cool". Of course, I was about nine years old, then. By the time I was twelve years old I no longer thought his cars were cool anymore. That is because, by that time, I had actually learned something about cars through helping my father work on them in the garage. In other words, I grew up. And therein lies the essence of Ed Roth. One might well characterize Ed Roth as a latter-day Peter Pan, a little boy who never grew up, only living in "La-La land" rather than "Neverland".

It is not the outrageousness of Ed Roth's with which I came to object. I have always loved cars that were designed by people who thought "outside the box". The aspect that I objected to was the fact that Roth's cars were never realistic as cars. Nobody could ever have actually driven any of his cars on the street, even if they wanted to. Apart from everything else, even a cursory examination reveals that Roth's cars actually lacked many of the basic components that a car requires to function, such as a radiator. Just think about that for a moment, just how far do you suppose a car with a huge, super-charged V-8 engine will go without any cooling system at all? You see, Ed Roths cars were never really cars at all, they were merely pieces of sculpture on wheels. As such, one might admire them as works of abstract art, but never as motor vehicles. That is why, by the age of twelve, my automotive admiration had shifted from Ed Roth and his unrealistic world of "Kustom Kars" to real vehicles designed by people who really thought outside the box, such as Citroen and SAAB.

Teenagers from Outer Space

One Of Those Movies That's So Bad That It's Good
"Teenagers from Outer Space" is one of this low-budget 1950s science-fiction movies that is so bad that it is actually a lot of fun. I mean just think about it; a movie that combined "Teenagers" and "Outer Space" was simply bound to spell success at drive-in theaters in 1959, regardless of who bad it was.

And this movie is pretty bad, make no mistake about that. The story is silly, the acting is amateurish and the special effects are laughable. However, what makes this movie fun to watch is the fact that clearly everyone involved took the making of this movie seriously.

Roger Corman once noted that a filmmaker cannot deliberately set out to make a "cult movie", only the audience can make a "cult movie". When you see this movie you will find out what he meant.

Four Sided Triangle

"He Dabbled in God's Domain"
British sci-fi in which two scientific friends invent a device which can replicate any object perfectly. They also happen to be in love with the same bird, who chooses to marry the one who is the squire's son rather than the one who is the farmer's son. However, rather than pine away over his lost love, the resourceful young scientist decides to rectify the situation by utilizing their new invention to create a clone of the disputed bird. Astonishingly, when he explains his intention to her, she agrees to go along with it.

This is really pretty original material considering that the idea of cloning was still decades away. In addition, give it further marks for originality in that the heroine actually goes along with the plan willingly, rather than having to be forcibly abducted, as would have been the case in a Hollywood version. Unfortunately, the story gets bogged down a bit due to the fact that it's treated more as soap opera then science fiction.


Tribute to the World's Most Iconic Fighter
Those who know about the Spitfire will certainly appreciate this film. However, those who know nothing at all about it will appreciate it, too. That is because few stories are so dramatic, the the photography so brilliant or the subject so artistic. And, as this film beautifully demonstrates, the Spitfire truly was a work of art, regardless of the angle from which it was viewed. In fact, one would be hard put to find a piece of modern sculpture as graceful as a Spitfire in flight.

Nevertheless, the Spitfire was also a weapon. The Spitfire was designed during the 1930s by a dying man who, upon first hearing the name that had been bestowed upon his creation by the Air Ministry, is purported to have remarked, "That's just the sort of silly name they would choose". However, few airplanes have had a more appropriate moniker. In 1940 the Spitfire played a crucial role in winning the Battle of Britain. It was also one of the few combat aircraft in service at the beginning of WW-II that was still in first-line service when the war ended six years later. That was because the design was so basically sound that every time the enemy introduced a new fighter to counter the Spitfire, the engineers simply came up with improvements to make it that much better.

Apart from the excellent aerial photography, the film is replete with first-hand accounts from those who flew the Spitfire, including Women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary, whose job it was to deliver Spitfires from the factories to operational squadrons. This film explains how the legendary Spitfire justifiably earned it's place as an icon, not only among the British, but among the people of every country whose pilots flew it during WW-II.

The King

Glum and Dark Medieval History
"The King" is a modern revisionist-history reappraisal of the rise of King Henry V of England ("The Ideal King"). It is a story that has been done before and, one might venture to say, done rather better, by the likes of William Shakespeare. Like most modern movies, nobody in "The King" speaks above a murmur, a mumble or a whisper, not even when they should be making themselves heard before an audience. It is also very modern in that it depicts the Middle Ages as having taken place entirely in the dark or, at best, during the hours of twilight. The movie also persists in the modern belief that, contrary to the evidence of the numerous Medieval illuminations of artists such as Jean Froissart, the Middle Ages were a period completely devoid of color. According to the makers of "The King", in those days mpbpdy dressed in anything but black, brown or gray, all of the trees and grass were gray, and even the English flag, which is well-known to consist of a red cross on a white background, apparently consisted during the Middle Ages of a black cross on a while background. In fine, this movie undoubtedly will appeal to those to whom revisionist history appeals, and will not appeal to those who appreciate the poetry of William Shakespeare.

Sapphire & Steel

A Rather Singular British Television Series
It's difficult to classify this rather singular and highly original British television series. It is not exactly "science-fiction", and it is not precisely "horror". I suppose the bast description might simply be "fantasy", in the sense that "The Twilight Zone" could be described as being "fantasy".

"Sapphire and Steel" follows the activities of a pair of - beings - who have been assigned to rectify disruptions in time. Although they are definitely not human it is also not explained precisely what they are. They are described as "elements", in the chemical sense, although sapphire and steel are not really chemical elements at all, but molecular compounds.

I suppose the best way to describe "Sapphire and Steel" to those who have never seen it would be to attempt to bring to mind a combination of "Dr. Who", "Poltergeist" and "The Exorcist". However, that description does not really do the program justice, either. Suffice it to say that, were it were to be produced today, a great deal more money probably would be lavished on special effects than was the case in the original.

It Ain't Half Hot Mum

Britain Stoops to Conquer
When it comes to humor there are few levels to which the British will not stoop and, In "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum", Britain stoops to conquer humor in India. David Croft was in charge, so be warned not to expect Merchant-Ivory class or Bollywood sophistication. "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" is a prime example of low British humor, which means that there are few depths below which they will not descend for the sake of a laugh. Not that the show isn't screamingly funny, it is. It is simply that you will hate yourself for laughing at it.

The series is set on a British Army base in India in 1945, during the closing days of World War II, A group of soldiers are trying to evade active duty at the front by serving in an entertainment unit. Their world is further polluted by a Colonel, a Captain, a Sergeant-Major and a group of Indian servants.

All of the characters are portrayed in the broadest possible manner. If "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" had been produced in the U.S. (not that it ever could have been) the network would have been compelled to cancel it after the very first episode due to a veritable avalanche of protests from Indian civil rights organizations and LGBT defense groups.

That being said, it must also be conceded that "I's Not Half Hot, Mum" is very well written, impeccably performed and screamingly funny. It you don't mind politically incorrect humor, the kind where you hate yourself for laughing, but laugh anyway, this will be just your cup of tea.

The Lost Missile

The U.S. Air Force was actually working on a think like this:
Believe it or not, the U.S. Air Force was actually working on a thing not much different from the "Lost Missile" depicted in this movie. It was known as "SLAM" and was to be a nuclear-armed cruise missile powered by a nuclear ram jet engine. This is a description of what it would have been like:

"The proposed use for nuclear-powered ramjets would be to power a cruise missile, called SLAM, for Supersonic Low Altitude Missile. In order to reach ramjet speed, it would be launched from the ground by a cluster of conventional rocket boosters. Once it reached cruising altitude and was far away from populated areas, the nuclear reactor would be made critical. Since nuclear power gave it almost unlimited range, the missile could cruise in circles over the ocean until ordered "down to the deck" for its supersonic dash to targets in the Soviet Union. The SLAM, as proposed, would carry a payload of many nuclear weapons to be dropped on multiple targets, making the cruise missile into an unmanned bomber. It was proposed that after delivering all its warheads, the missile could then spend weeks flying over populated areas at low altitudes, causing secondary damage from radiation. However, the high speed of the missile would spread direct radiation from the reactor over a large territory, keeping ground exposure to low levels. Little to no fallout would be created as the reactor elements would have to be resistant to the airstream in order to function for any time. When the vehicle would eventually crash after exhausting its fuel or due to a mechanical failure, a local radiation hazard would be created by the reactor. Compared to the primary payload, the effect would not be significant."

How about that for an example of "life imitating art"? Fortunately, the entire project was abandoned before this horrific device was ever built.

As for the movie, I'm afraid that it comes across as pretty low-grade 1950s science-fiction. It will be perceived in an especially negative light in Canada, which is depicted as nothing more than an expendable buffer for the protection of the United States.

The World's Greatest Sinner

This film is what "independent cinema" is all about.
One hears a lot about "independent cinema" these days, films made outside the mainstream studio system that reflect the individual voices of their creators. Film festivals are devoted entirely to "independent films", such as "The Sundance Film Festival". There is even an "Independent Film Channel" on cable television. Well, "The World's Greatest Sinner" really IS an "Independent Film". Timothy Carey wrote, produced, directed and starred in "The World's Greatest Sinner". Filmed on location with whatever actors and equipment he could get, int took three years to complete because he had no budget and made the movie whenever time permitted between professional acting jobs. In fact, the story of the making of "The World's Greatest Sinner" would make a pretty compelling subject for a movie in itself, much as was done some years ago to "Plan 9 From Outer Space".

This movie is about unrestrained ego. The main character is an insurance salesman who wants to become something more. By turns he transforms himself into a rock & roll star, an evangelist and a presidential candidate. During that process his ego enlarges exponentially until it becomes clear that his ultimate goal is nothing less than to become God. Oh, and as if all that were not bizarre enough, the sound track was written and performed by Frank Zappa, early in his career, years before he became famous as the leader of "The Mothers of Invention".

Nobody is ever going to say that this movie has the best production values. Apart from everything else, the three-year production time inevitably created some continuity issues. Nevertheless, this is a film that has something to say which no other would dare to say, and says it emphatically. Furthermore, despite the fact that matters frequently go over-the-top, the story is frighteningly plausible and believable. Yes, one cannot escape the conviction that the events depicted really could happen.

Although "The World's Greatest Sinner" is never going to be everyone's cup of tea, or indeed was ever intended to be, it definitely deserves a place on the list of movies everyone should see at least once before they die.

The Ghost Army

Not concerned with the "supernatural".
Just for the record, "The Ghost Army" has nothing whatever to do with the supernatural. The "Ghost Army" of the title was a very real, if very secret, unit of the WW-II U.S Army. However, "The Ghost Army" is not the usual WW-II war movie, either. The members of the "Ghost Army" were not hard-core warriors, but talented artists and brilliant technicians. In modern parlance, it would be said that the mission of the "Ghost Army" was to "disseminate disinformation". In point of fact, their job was to pretend to be a much larger Army force then they actually were in an effort to distract the attention of the enemy away from the location and activities of the real soldiers. All of the members of the Ghost Army understood that, if they did their work properly, then they would draw fire from the enemy. How they carried out their missions, and how successful their efforts were, is the subject of this fascinating documentary.

'Way Out

Creepy, Unsettling, and Definitely Different
I was six years old when this show was aired and I still remember it. One episode that distinctly comes to mind is "The Croaker", with John McGiver and Richard Thomas. Yes, Richard Thomas who would later star in "The Waltons". Only, he wasn't portraying "John Boy" in this program, far from it!

This series was meant to compete with the popular thriller anthology programs of that period, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Thriller". The former was presented by the inimitable Alfred Hitchcock and the latter by the equally-inimitable Boris Karloff. Admittedly, those were tough acts to follow. However, "Way Out" was presented by writer Roald Dahl, who somehow contrived to be come across as even creepier than his better-known competitors.

However, it is the quality of the stories that make this anthology series work. I understand that 1961 television audiences actually found them a little bit too unsettling, so that the network received some negative mail about the program. It was that, supposedly, that led to this brief series not being renewed. That was a shame because, while almost forgotten today, it was actually an excellent series. Those who are interested to checking out this nearly-forgotten masterpiece can find it on Youtube.

The Long and the Short and the Tall

Good on the level of a "morality play" but a poor example of military discipline.
This was obviously written as a morality play about man's inhumanity to man, and it works on that level. However, as an example of military discipline, it is pretty appalling.

The characters are members of a British Army patrol sent into in the jungle in Burma during WW-II. It consists of a Sergeant, a Corporal, a Lance-Corporal, and four Privates. More to the point, it includes one of each of the obligatory British ethnic stereotypes: a professional-soldier Sergeant, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman, a Geordie, an Australian and a Cockney.

However, what dooms this patrol is not its' ethnic diversity, but the fact that they are all totally incompetent. The Cockney, played by a miscast Lawrence Harvey, is a loud-mouthed wise-guy who constantly antagonizes everybody around him, provoking them into constant arguing. Beyond that, however, is the fact that the two senior noncoms continuously permit him to get away with it. One cannot help wondering why, if they already knew what this character was like, why he should ever have been permitted to accompany a patrol such as this in the first place? Furthermore, one cannot help wondering what the officer was thinking who assembled these particular misfits together, and ordered them into the bush without an officer in charge?

Although they are deep in the Burmese jungle, surrounded by the enemy, these men seem to spend all of their time arguing at the tops of their voices. They literally make more noise than a busted chainsaw. Any Japanese within five miles should have had no trouble finding them. However, to make things easier for the enemy, despite the fact that he is aware that the Japanese are in the vicinity, the Sergeant insists that their radio operator constantly attempt to contact their base by radio. Not surprisingly, the enemy quickly pinpoint their position.

While the Japanese are depicted as quiet, stealthy, well-disciplined and professional, the British are depicted as clumsy, noisy, ill-disciplined and completely incompetent. As I said, I realize that this story is intended to serve as an allegory on man's inhumanity to man, but I simply cannot believe that any British troops could ever possibly be as bad as this lot. If they were, how could they ever have won a war?

Garbo: El espía

Absolutely Appalling Documentary, "Garbo" Deserves Better Treatment
Known to British Intelligence under the code-name of "Garbo", the career of Juan Pujol Garcia is one of the most incredible "now-it-can-be-told" stories to come out of World War II. Although a neutral from Spain, Garcia voluntarily transformed himself the most successful double-agent of the war, and ultimately had a major role in the success of the D-Day Invasion. The story of "Garbo" makes any of the exploits you will see in any James Bond movie seem like piffle. "Garbo" was the real deal, and he maintained the deception for over four years. Funded by the German Abwehr and ultimately awarded the Iron Cross by them for his services to the Reich, for years Garbo fed the Germans misleading and false information, which he acquired from a string of entirely fictitious agents whom he had invented.

Unfortunately, this dreadful documentary does not do justice to the story of this absolutely incredible individual. The music is terrible, often inappropriate and, for reasons that pass understanding, the director frequently chooses to increase its' volume while the commentators are in the middle of speaking. Sometimes he has two commentators speaking at the same time, so that the viewer cannot understand what either one is saying.

Worst of all, however, is that some of the commentators speak Spanish but, again for reasons that defy comprehension, the director has seen fit not to provide any subtitles. At least one of those commentators speaks for a considerable amount of time. I have no doubt that what he this individual, who is not identified, has to say is of great interest. It's too bad that, unless the viewer happens to speak Spanish, he will have absolutely no idea who this individual is or what he has to say.

It just so happens that, a few years ago, I actually read the biography of "Garbo" by Stephan Talty. Consequently, I already knew who "Garbo" was and what he had done. However, anyone trying to learn about him merely by seeing this awful documentary will, at best, find the story extremely confusing and, at worst, incomprehensible. "Garbo" deserves better.

Mondo cane

The original jaw-dropping "shock-umentary"
I just saw this movie again for the first time since it was originally released. It is still truly different, truly bizarre, truly grotesque and definitely not for the squeamish. I do not know what rating Mondo Cane would be given in movie theaters today because, at the time of its' release, the movie rating system had not yet been invented. However, I would have to say that it would get at least an "R", and perhaps even an "X" rating. Actually, I do not think this movie could be made today at all. For instance, do you know those disclaimers they have in the credits of movies nowadays that read, "No animals were injured in the production of this film"? Well, they definitely could not have displayed one of those disclaimers in this movie. The Humane Society, the SPCA and PETA would have such a fit over a movie like this today that they would prevent its' release. Occasionally scenes such as the ones depicted in this movie are posted on YouTube or Facebook, but there is usually such a clamor against them that they are quickly withdrawn. This movie contains some seriously disturbing images, even by today's standards, so just imagine how it was received by audiences back in 1963. Those interested in seeing something truly bizarre need look no further. However, be warned, just because this movie was made over 55 years ago does not mean that it is tame.

Li'l Abner

Millennials Simply Won't Get It
Millennials simply won't understand this movie because they will have absolutely no idea what it is about. That is because "L'il Abner" was derived from a famous newspaper comic strip by Al Capp that has not been seen since 1977. However, "L'il Abner" was published for 43 years, from 1934 to 1977, appearing in 900 American newspapers as well as 100 additional foreign newspapers. Although, like Doonesbury, the series tended towards political satire, Al Capp also did not neglect to include plenty of bawdily suggestive imagery. The strip was at the height of its' popularity in 1956, when a musical version was produced on Broadway. the musical was subsequently reproduced in this movie, using many of the original cast members. It is nothing if not exuberant and succeeds in capturing the flavor of then original comic strip.

Die Farbe

Excellent adaptation of Lovecraft's story
HP Lovecraft stories are notoriously difficult to transcribe onto film. Most film versions of his stories have been disappointing. However, in this case, the filmmakers have managed very well. It is true that the locale of the story has been transposed to Germany and that a few plot points have been altered. Nevertheless, this film is very faithful to the original and, more importantly, maintains the eerie and paranoiac atmosphere for which Lovecraft was famous.

Although widely acknowledged as one of Lovecraft's best stories, "The Color Out of Space" was not really typical of his work. It contained more elements of science-fiction than most of the author's stories did. Some have speculated that he was attempting to describe the effects of radiation. However, that seems unlikely in light of the fact that the story was written in 1927, when such phenomena were not yet understood.

Some may criticize the fact that the film was shot in black-and-white. however, given the fact that the subject described as nothing more than merely a color, a color that no one has ever seen before, and which no one can describe, there really is not any other way in which the film could have been made.

Those expecting a normal sci-fi horror film may be disappointed with the slow pace and relative lack of "action" and spectacular special effects. However, it should be understood that this is entirely faithful to the manner in which Lovecraft wrote the story. Don't look for any vampires, werewolves or other monsters here. This is an eerily atmospheric story in which the horror creeps up gradually and silently, and is never really fully understood. However, it is well worthwhile staying with this movie because the story will grab you.

Blake's 7

The Anti-Star Trek
"Blakes 7" is a provocative British sci-fi series which combines elements of "Star Wars", "Star Trek" and "Robin Hood". The series takes place in a dystopian future in which the Earth is run by an oppressive and tyrannical government. The protagonists are a small group of escaped convicts who have taken over an alien space ship with which they fight against the tyrannical Earth government while simultaneously avoiding pursuit by Earth spaceships. One cannot help feeling that it was not a coincidence that the author cast the "Earth Federation" in the role of the tyrannical bad guys, rendering "Blakes 7" a sort of "Anti-Star Trek".

Although some of the production values are not up to the level of American sci-fi series of that period, "Blakes 7" is still worth a look.

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