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Perry Mason: Chapter Eight
Episode 8, Season 1

I guess the moral of this season is you shouldn't be quick to judge...
... unless you're faced with somebody who IS quick to judge and then approach with caution. This episode was a fitting end to a terrific piece of TV. Oh the irony of a show set in the Depression being such a jewel during all the bad that is happening in the world right now. I'm putting a spoiler warning on this review although I don't think I'm giving too much away.

The opening scene is the courtroom scene we've all been waiting for, except it isn't actually real. Hamilton Burger tells Perry - "Nobody ever confesses on the stand", as he helps Perry figure out how to end his defense of Emily. Rather funny if you have ever watched the 50s/60s TV show.

The actual courtroom part of the show ends early - there are about 15 minutes to wrap everything up at the end between the characters, and that is good considering there is unfinished business between everybody. At least we don't have to sit through Tyrion rearranging chairs before a meeting like in another season finale of another HBO show. But then these writers are probably planning on sticking around.

Shea Wigham as Pete - what can I say. The guy just works, and is probably a better friend than Perry deserves. Perry treats his friends pretty badly, but then the guy has demons.

Della Street - a lawyer without a degree, which she intends to remedy on Perry's dime as the two humorously negotiate at the end of the episode as an amused Paul Drake looks on. Oh, and Paul declares his independence from a corrupt LAPD here in a most fitting way - badge, gun, bribe, all relinquished.

Sister Alice and Perry have a final scene together at a roadside hash house on the edge of a cliff, but not all questions are answered. Except one - Birdy was, from the beginning, willing to sacrifice anybody to survive another day.

Don't Talk to Irene

Provides genuine laughs and pulls at your heart...
... and begs the question, why DO we sentence people to community service? I understand the intention - to get someone out of themselves by serving the community, but don't the poor, the sick, and the elderly deserve better than people who are being forced to care? But I digress. And why I even brought this up will become clearer - maybe - further on in the review.

This is one of those 'little indie'movies that make the film festival rounds, and usually gets lost in the shadow of Hollywood blockbusters..but this one's worth a watch. Irene, played by Michelle McLeod, is an overweight teen who talks to/with a poster of Geena Davis.. Davis gives her motivational direction..and considering she's not even in the movie, Davis gets some great lines. Irene is forbidden internet access, cell phones and TV by a mother who thinks sheltering her will spare her the bullying of the real world. Mom (Anastasia Phillips) was a popular high school cheerleader, whose teen pregnancy re-wrote her future..she vacillates between smothering her daughter and being brutally honest about how 'fat girls' are perceived in today's culture.

Irene is determined to become a cheerleader too, which makes her a laughing stock at school and the butt of a cruel practical joke that lands her, and two of the instigators, on suspension and assigned to work at the retirement home next door to the school. The characters in the home are no-nonsense sweet little old grandmas here--and the performances of the three seniors closest to Irene (Bruce Gray, Joan Gregson and Deborah Grover) are honest and quirky. Scott Thompsn plays the home's director who will ignore most things just to keep his job, Andy Reid plays the non-comformist of questionable gender, and Aviva Mongillo is the epitome of the stereotypical 'mean girl'. All turn in laudable performances.

Irene listens to Davis's advice to 'never give up', and actually starts believing it..we don't know whether to feel sorry or hopeful for her, but she uses her enthusiasm for cheerleading (and some stolen vodka) to start her own cheer team--among the seniors, and a lot of people are affected by her new found tenacity. The ending may have been a little more sugar coated than was necessary, but I liked the film because it was filled with imperfect atypical characters, each allowed their own small story, who find their way into Irene's world.

Newbie McLeod is quite good, fighting tears as her face genuinely registers pain in one moving scene. She may not have the polish of Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, but this teen story is just as entertaining as that film, and maybe more original in style and execution. The film provides genuine laughs and pulls at your hear

Five Graves to Cairo

Good wartime suspense and the best role I've seen Franchot Tone in ...
... and that may be largely due to him being at MGM and getting parts that really didn't play to his strengths. "Phantom Lady" was another dynamite part for him, but I digress.

British tank crewman J.J. Bramble (Franchot Tone) is the sole survivor of his group, and after wandering through the desert, he arrives in a small North African desert town. He is taken in by the local hotel owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff) who, along with French maid Mouche (Anne Baxter), are the only occupants left in town. When the German army moves in and takes the hotel over as their HQ, Bramble pretends to be a crippled servant. The leader of the occupiers is none other than General Erwin Rommel (Erich von Stroheim), so Bramble sets out to kill the military commander or at least gain some valuable intelligence.

Billy Wilder does an excellent job of building suspense on many levels as more aspects of the characters are discovered as the film progresses. Tone does an admirable job of portraying someone pretending to be someone with secret knowledge that he in fact does not possess. The only bad thing I can say about Tone's performance is that he doesn't even attempt an accent, which stands out all the more as the German characters all speak in German or with German accents, as well as Baxter (French) and Tamiroff (generic Middle Eastern). Von Stroheim is great as usual as the German military genius, even if he bears little resemblance to the screen depiction of Rommel that I always picture, James Mason from The Desert Fox (1951). The movie earned 3 Oscar nominations, for Best B&W Cinematography, Best B&W Art Direction, and Best Editing and is well worth a watch for a film from a year full of shrill productions.

Perry Mason: Chapter Seven
Episode 7, Season 1

I feel like a broken record...
... this series just keeps topping itself every week. This week could be called "odd couples, odd results". But even that doesn't sum it up.

Perry and his old partner come to an odd conclusion, and we finally get to see Drake and Perry in action. Perry tells Drake: "Watch how it's done". And that doesn't exactly work out.

That kiss between Della and Hamilton Burger a couple of weeks ago? Tonight, in a prolonged scene, we finally get to see what it is all about.

As for Alice and Birdie, I was expecting something shocking, but never THAT! I just want to give a shout out to actress Lili Taylor. Never a conventional beauty, she has played all kinds of characters and all have intrigued me, starting back in "Dogfight" and then as the woman Nate marries but doesn't choose in "Six Feet Under", and now THIS.

Some of the mystery begins to fall into place in ways I never considered when this started out. And there is one shocking scene in the middle of the murder mystery beginning to come together.

I really like how the writers have had long scenes between characters that make me think that things are a certain way between them only to have them turn everything you believed on your head in a later scene.

Best of all, I love how Perry is coming into his own in confidence in the courtroom. I wish I could say more, but I don't want to give anything away. All I can say is, if you binge watch this, don't give up on it in the first couple of episodes. It not only gets better but every episode reveals why things were done the way that they were in what seems like a slow opening.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: Walk into the Light
Episode 6, Season 1

If you want to know all that is known about JJD/GSK, this is that episode...
... not that there is that much to tell. Every detail we have is basically coming from his relatives, the ones who were generous enough to be filmed about details of his life.

The guy has been play acting that he is an Alzheimer's patient since he was arrested. Then he went on a hunger strike. Because...what??? ... He thinks they are going to let him out under any circumstances??? He is the poster boy for no parole. Ever.

Back to the details of GSK's life. None of his relatives had a clue. He was a good father by all estimation. He had helped out a niece who had been a victim of abuse by giving her a place to live. And as a child, when living in Germany, his sister was raped in front of him by two soldiers. Maybe that is where JJD went off of his axis. The beginning of the making of a monster. Because by the time he was a young man he had big streaks of being a control freak. Bonnie, his former fiancee from back in the 60s, talked about how he liked to break the rules, wanted her to let him cheat off of a college exam because "she owed him", and after she broke their engagement shows up at her bedroom window in the middle of the night with a revolver, telling her through the window that they are going to Vegas that night to be married. Not exactly Romeo at the balcony.

It's odd that Bonnie thought she had to apologize for running to her father's bedroom for his protection. Like she was supposed to handle this lunatic herself? She was lucky that night and so was dad. Whatever transpired, she never saw JJD again. Why is Bonnie's story important? Because JJD/GSK had said "I hate you Bonnie" while attacking one of his victims. So this woman is apologizing for not standing up to JJD herself, practically apologizing to the victims for even existing. It's funny how women of our generation - born in the 40's and 50s - belong halfway in the era post women's lib and halfway in the era when women were still on pedestals. And if we fell off it was always somehow our fault. I recognize the cultural confusion myself.

JJD was a police officer, even during some of the time he was terrorizing California. He was fired from the force after he was caught shoplifting items that, in retrospect, were not something that a grown man would steal. JJD had no history of stealing for fun. He had the means to pay for the items he stole. He stole a hammer and dog repellant.. And nobody on the force thought anything of it other than he had to go. Other than that, JJD lived an outwardly unremarkable life, even if neighbors found him to be weird.

In this episode, one of the survivors mentioned, "What? All these years he's been living he comfy middle class life he wrecked?". Of course he did. He wanted to destroy well ordered middle class lives. That was always his purpose. He wasn't after sex. He wasn't after stuff. He stole trifles of no value. He wanted to trash marriages and smash the sense of well being of his victims. He probably thought he got away with it all of those years, since being a cop himself he knew time was the perp's friend. But something happened he could not have figured on. DNA evidence. Oh drat! So careful about fingerprints and everything else, and as the science progressed, his apprehension depended only on somebody he did not know and never met loading a DNA sample into a genealogy database.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

If you realize this series is not some sensational crime drama, you'll like it
I think perhaps people's disappointment comes from the way this documentary was promoted as opposed to what it was actually about - the True Crime community and the impact the search for the Golden State Killer had upon Michelle McNamara's life. Then there is the great irony of her accidental death before the book is published and the apprehension of the GSK right after it is published. If any one of these statements were not true I don't think there would have been such a documentary in the first place.

In a way we are forced to take a look at ourselves when we watch this doc - WHY are we so much more interested in the killer than a story about Michelle? Why are we so drawn to each gory detail? By juxtaposing her story with that of GSK we can see first hand the effects of true crime on Michelle, but it also causes us to question our own reactions to the crime and why we're here watching this in the first place.

This documentary is much more of a reflection on our society and our relationship with true crime than it is about GSK himself. But we should have known that, because until 72 year old Joseph De'Angelo was apprehended in 2018, there was literally nothing known about him. To describe him as non-descript would be generous. To describe him as "unhelpful" as far as talking about why he did it since he will never walk free again would be an understatement.

If you want to see GSK from another perspective, try reading the book "Sudden Terror" by Larry Crompton, a cop who was involved in the case early on. You may be shocked by some of the politically incorrect viewpoints this guy states - like "since the victim did not know the rapist, there was no point investigating further". I'm paraphrasing of course, and he did say this before it was realized that all of the attacks were from the same person, and Crompton is a product of his time of course.

Crompton's book came out before Michelle's book, and I would recommend reading it before IBGITD. Then come back to this documentary.

Perry Mason: Chapter Six
Episode 6, Season 1

This series has been an uphill climb, in a good way.
Every episode just gets better than the one before.

This is the first one with Perry as attorney, and he fumbles around just like you'd expect somebody to do who became an attorney the way that he did and experienced such an abrupt transition. He feels like he doesn't belong and he shows lots of righteous anger at the way the D.A. is just putting obstacles in his path. There is a great scene with him driving the back roads talking to himself that is Emmy worthy.

Della gets a chance to do more than answer phones, and she is really up to the challenge, much more assured of herself than Perry.

The mystery is quite convoluted, and I liked the scene on the back porch between Perry and his former partner P.I. who both calms him down and lays out the evidence he's found and says "I don't know what it all means either." It made me feel a little less stupid.

As for Paul Drake, he's discovering he has agency. Can founding one be far behind?

As for Sister Alice, my feelings for her have changed the most. In the beginning I just thought she was some bleached blonde embezzler of the megachurch crowd, but she shows such kindness towards Emily that I think is genuine and plus she is having odd memories that make me think her story could be headed into Delores Claiborne territory. Just a guess by me, nothing more.

The episode ends with a cliffhanger. Perry's hands are up just as they were at the end of Episode Five, but for completely different reasons. I can't wait to see what happens in the next episode. And I think "potty mouthed lady" just may be my favorite cameo appearance of season one.

The Eagle and the Hawk

Good acting but the script is rather glacial
This was directed by Stuart Walker with assistance from Mitchell Leisen. It was written to cash in on the success of Howard Hawks' The Dawn Patrol over at Warner Brothers.

Fredric March is an ace pilot for the RAF during WWI. Cary Grant is his rival, a screw-up as a pilot though perhaps too successful as a gunner (called "observers," because their main task is to photograph enemy installations). March succeeds in mission after mission while his observers are killed, and the pressure begins to mount. On furlough the only person who understands his feelings is a character known in the credits as "the Beautiful Woman," appropriately played by Carole Lombard, who makes the most of her one appearance. Jack Oakie provides some comic relief. As in The Dawn Patrol, the death of a young and enthusiastic recruit creates a crisis, and as in many movies, the hero's rival is the one who finally understands and appreciates him.

Fredric March has several big dramatic scenes which he plays very well. As is often the case in his early films, Cary Grant isn't yet the actor he would become, but he's still reasonably effective. I would guess that Mitchell Leisen had something to do with Carole Lombard's look and her outfit; Leisen knew how to make his stars look good. Leisen and Lombard became close friends.

The Eagle and the Hawk is not especially well paced in the early going, and the film leans heavily on the talent of its actors, and the aerial footage, some of it taken from Wings. It is surprisingly dark in places, with its consideration of battle fatigue, suicide, and the morality of shooting down enemy fighters who have parachuted from their plane.

The Big Broadcast of 1938

chaotic musical starring the best of Paramount musical comedy talent
The "plot" of this slapdash musical concerns a transatlantic ship race between two new "super-ships", the Gigantic and the Colossal. On board the former, S.B. Bellows (W.C. Fields), the brother of shipping line boss T. Frothingill Bellows (also Fields), tries to ensure that his ship wins, although he spends most of his times in drunken calamities. Also on board is entertainment host Buzz Fielding (Bob Hope), who takes time in between introducing musical acts to rekindle romance with one of his ex-wives (Shirley Ross), while his current girlfriend (Dorothy Lamour) falls for handsome ship radioman Bob (Leif Erickson). Things get even more chaotic when Bellows' daughter Martha (Martha Raye) comes aboard. Also featuring Ben Blue, Grace Bradley, Lynne Overman, Patricia Wilder, Rufe Davis, Lionel Pape, Virginia Hale, James Craig, Richard Denning, Monte Blue, Mae Busch, Leonid Kinskey, Bernard Punsly, and Russell Hicks.

Seemingly assembled from bits of different movies awkwardly stitched together, there's some funny stuff here, but no kind of pacing or interesting narrative. Fields, who was making his final Paramount film here, is funny, and his golf game and billiards game scenes are top notch. Bob Hope, making his feature debut, sings his signature song. I was pleasantly surprised to see future Road co-star Lamour already working with him. Martha Raye gets a rather impressive song and dance number that gets acrobatic and she obviously didn't use a double. The music numbers are an odd lot, too, with a couple of songs by Mexican star Tito Guizar, a performance from Norwegian opera diva Kirsten Flagstad (doing Wagner's "Brunnhilde's Battle Cry"), and Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orchestra doing "This Little Ripple Had Rhythm" which combines live action with animation to show the "origin" of the "rippling rhythm", which apparently was an ambulatory blob of swamp water that separates from a bog and walks to Fields' band and teaches them. It makes as much sense as it sounds. The movie won the Oscar for Best Song ("Thanks for the Memory").

Caesar and Cleopatra

A filmed stage performance that feels like one
British Technicolor adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's historical play, from Eagle-Lion and director Gabriel Pascal. Roman conqueror Julius Caesar (Claude Rains) arrives in Alexandria, Egypt to supervise the occupation of the newly-acquired territory. He meets young queen Cleopatra (Vivien Leigh), a submissive girl without the skill or training to wield power. Caesar decides to personally tutor her in the ways of ruling others, while also fending off various uprisings.

This was the most expensive British film ever made at the time, and it looks it, with large, impressive sets, dozens of extras, colorful costumes, and elaborate set-pieces. The film was scripted by Shaw, and it retains the "Shakespeare-lite" quality to the dialogue. It may take modern ears a bit to get used to, but it's more accessible than the Bard's densest prose. I thought Rains was very good as older, wiser and often bemused Caesar. Stewart Granger is youthful and heroic, and Flora Robson is a scene-stealer as a powerhouse of a nurse to Cleopatra. The weakest link is Vivien Leigh, who I never bought into here. I read after watching that she suffered a miscarriage and a mental breakdown while filming, so that explains a lot of the uneven nature of her screen work. Director Pascal does a poor job of opening up the play, despite his big budget. There are a scattered few cinematic shots, but most of it feels liked a filmed stage performance. The movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Color Art Direction.

Vanishing Point

Mediocre counterculture film from the early 70s
Barry Newman drives a car from Denver to San Francisco, something that according to Google Maps should probably take about 20 hours. (The interstates are better now, but there was probably less traffic in 1971, so I'd call it a wash). However, Barry makes a bet with his amphetamine pusher that he'll make the trip in 15:30, which leads to him getting chased by the police in directions that won't get him to San Francisco. (Seriously, why does he end up in Joshua Tree National Monument?)

Along the way, Barry meets a bunch of people similarly on the fringes of society like him, such as prospector Dean Jagger and two carjackers -- I'm not certain whether the two characters were actually in love with each other, or pretending to be as their MO to distract their mark. And there's a blind DJ who listens to the police radio and sends Barry messages over the AM radio.

I suppose there's a story to be made about people on the edges of normal society, but this isn't it, as it's a mess both in terms of geography and in not caring about the characters.

It Happened in Brooklyn

Not bad MGM musical with Sinatra in his early film days
-Shy singer Danny Miller (Frank Sinatra) musters out of the army and returns home to Brooklyn. He ends up rooming with school janitor Nick (Jimmy Durante), while romancing music teacher Anne (Kathryn Grayson). A love triangle forms when Danny's acquaintance Jamie (Peter Lawford) comes over from England in order to try his hand in the music business.

There's a lot of music, and fans of early Sinatra will find much to enjoy. He attempts a semi-operatic duet with Grayson which was ill-advised. Grayson naturally gets a showcase operatic number late in the film during which the momentum screeches to a halt. Durante is amusing, and gets a couple of duets with Frank. Gloria Grahame makes the most of her small role as an army nurse at the film's start.

If Winter Comes

MGM drama with an overstuffed script
Set in a small English town just before the beginning of WW2, the story follows the trials and tribulations of Mark Sabre (Walter Pidgeon), a good, decent man married to the shrewish Mabel (Angela Lansbury). He's secretly in love with the also-married Nona Tybar (Deborah Kerr), but both are hesitant to make a move forward. When the war breaks out, Mark discovers that young Effie Bright (Janet Leigh) is pregnant, and the father is a mystery that she won't divulge. Forced out onto the streets by her religious father, Mark agrees to take Effie into his home, much to the rage of Mabel, and the condemnation of his fellow townsfolk.

The overstuffed script reveals the material's literary roots, with perhaps one or two too many minor characters for the 90+ minute running time. I get the feeling this was supposed to be a an Oscar contender for Walter Pidgeon, but he's not quite up to challenge, faltering in the film's last act with some amateurish acting. 19-year-old Janet Leigh, in only her second film, seems to have had trouble with her British accent as much of her dialogue is noticeably looped. Poor Angela Lansbury was only 22, and she auditioned for the role Leigh got, but was instead cast as the disagreeable wife of 50-year-old Pidgeon. Kerr often seems like an afterthought, a victim of the script trying to do too much. The clash of old morals mixed with small-minded people and small-town gossip would make this a good addition to a triple bill including My Reputation and Cass Timberlane.

The Red Danube

An MGM entry into the post WW II red scare sweepstakes
.The MGM gloss makes this less sensational than your typical low budget commie rat flick. Even Louis Calhern, who plays the head red, is a bit of a gentleman. Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford, and a sexy Angela Lansbury are Brits with a predilection for strange nicknames. Pidgeon is Hooky and Peter is Twingo.( yes, Twingo.) who are billeted in a Vienna convent run by buttinsky nun Ethel Barrymore. Part of their job is to repatriate Russians living in the British zone.

Enter Janet Leigh as a questionably talented ballerina. She catches Lawford's eye and they begin a non-torrid, extra sappy love "affair." The Russians want to get her back to Russia and Peter tries to keep her in Austria. Long story short--Janet can be shipped back to the U.S.S.R. or jump through a window to her death. She wisely chooses the second option. If only she had done so a half hour earlier. If only the meddlesome Ethel met the same fate. Hope springs eternal. Pidgeon started off the picture as something of a skeptic. Of course by the end he sees the light. The group, their work done in Vienna, fly off to a new assignment, singing, as they depart, - Row Row Row Your Boat in the plane. The love story and the rather understated commie evil make this film not as exciting as other pictures dealing with the same issues. It's not so much a red scare movie as a red slightly nervous one.

Probably this is more of a 6.5/10. 6 seems too mediocre and seven too meritorious.

Discarded Lovers

Pretty good B murder mystery
The setting of this B mystery is Eminent Studios, and we jump right into the action as spoiled star Irma (Natalie Moorhead) is finishing her latest movie. She is what everyone probably thought all Hollywood actresses were then..vain, haughty, and quite promiscuous. Her husband, Roy D'Arcy, has turned to drink over her escapades, her director/ex-lover's wife (Sharon Lyn) is mad enough to kill her, another lover (Jason Robards Sr.) wants everything kept hush hush, her first seemingly destroyed husband keeps lurking about, and her chauffeur is stealing from her. What a mess...When she's found dead, the only one who acts genuinely upset/shocked is her faithful (or is she?) secretary (Barbara Weeks). It takes a NY reporter (Russell Hopton) to steer the cops in the right direction. Yes, the print isn't so hot (even the titles are missing), but this was entertaining: the look of the early film sets, some pretty corny dialogue ("Some women are too fascinating for their own good") and a rapid pace. Nobody's really awful, as in some early talkies, and Fred Kelsey, an actor who always seems to be the 'dumb cop' in B flicks fills that slot again. If you can take one more 'gather all the suspects' scenario and a Perry Mason moment, it's worth the hour it takes to watch. Being in the public domain, it is ubiquitous on youtube.

The Invisible Menace

Routine murder mystery with a misleading title
Short murder mystery from Warner Brothers and director John Farrow. On a fog-enshrouded American military base, a man is found gruesomely murdered, having apparently been tortured before his death. Gruff military investigator Colonel Rogers (Cy Kendall) tries to find the culprit among the pool of suspects, including quiet Dr. Jevries (Boris Karloff), newlywed soldier Eddie (Eddie Craven) and his bubble-headed bride Sally (Marie Wilson) who has been smuggled onto the island, or any of the other soldiers on or off duty. The cast includes Regis Toomey, Henry Kolker, Frank Faylen, Eddie Acuff, Charles Trowbridge, Phyllis Barry, Harland Tucker, and Carole Landis.

Despite the title and the presence of Karloff, this isn't a supernatural or science fiction tale, just a routine murder mystery, although there is one incongruous scene of a Haitian voodoo ritual. Craven and Wilson stick out like a goofy sore thumb from the proceedings, but I still liked Wilson. Cy Kendall is unusually cast as the law enforcer, as he's typically cast as a gangster or corrupt politician. Just a few years earlier, Toomey was playing the kind of roles played by Craven in this one.

Jet Over the Atlantic

A poor man's High and the Mighty
This airplane disaster film is not particularly well executed and has as hokey and predictable a plot line as you could find. It's strangely watchable, though, due to its cast of players, a fairly impressive one, even if there is no one within the cast that ranks as a major star.

Guy Madison plays a man convicted of two murders (he's innocent, of course) who is being taken back to the States from Spain by FBI man George Raft. Madison's show biz girlfriend (Virginia Mayo), not knowing what's happening, sneaks herself onto the plane as well. There is also an opera prima donna (Ilona Massey), who craves attention, Margaret Lindsay in an almost bit part as a mother escorting her teen daughter, and Argentina Brunetti as a bubble headed, irritating busybody who wants to stage a marriage on the plane between Madison and Mayo.

Best of all, though, there's George Macready, he of the silken voice and creepy demeanor, who has managed to sneak a poison seeping bomb on board, in a stupid way to commit suicide, as this poison will seep through the plane's air system to eventually kill everyone aboard. Macready has killed his daughter we hear through the dialogue (no explanation why) and is now determined to knock off himself and his wife (Anna Lee), along with everybody else.

The most unintentionally hilarious scene in the film is when Macready introduces himself to Lindsay and her teen daughter (who is afraid of the gas seeping in) and asks if he can hold her and comfort her. Now just how many mothers are going to allow a creepy looking stranger with a smooth pervert voice to hold their teenager daughter in his lap? Well Lindsay does smilingly ("Darling, this nice man wants to hold you for a little while,") and the young teenage girl agrees to do so, willingly.

This is a surprisingly entertaining one in spite of all of the nonsense, partially because it is so dumb and partially because of the cast trying to take it seriously. Oh, did I mention the fact that Madison just happens to be a former airline pilot? Now take a wild guess how that fact may work itself into the plot line.

Great shades of much later and better films on air disasters, one serious and one that is surely not serious. I know, stop calling you "surely".

Turner Classic Movies 2012 Year End Obit

TCM always remembers in such a classy way...
... but this year's obituary short was particularly poignant. The innocence of drive-ins--even if half of the baby boomers were conceived in them--was such a fitting setting for 2012's tribute. And ending on a celestial note of stars and "stars" and that blinding light--it really pushed me over the edge. M83's song, too--a band named after a spiral galaxy--was just the right mix of warmth and elegy. The list of those remembered who died in 2012 who are remembered in this short:

Andy Griffith, R. G. Armstrong, Alex Karras, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Peter Breck, Keiko Tsushima, Christopher Challis, Tony Scott, Andy Williams, Mel Stuart, Lupe Ontiveros, Hal David, Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Thaxter, Eileen Moran, Albert Freeman Jr., James Farentino, Ray Bradbury, Frank Pierson, Andrew Sarris, Russell Means, Tonino Guerra, Isuzu Yamada, Nicol Williamson, Ann Rutherford, Erland Josephson, Ben Gazzara, Susan Tyrrell, Whitney Houston, William Windom, production J. Michael Riva, Denise Darcel, Frederica Sagor Maas, Turhan Bey, Robert Sherman, Stephen Frankfurt, Ralph McQuarrie, Tony Martin, Davy Jones, Levon Helm, Marvin Hamlisch, Jonathan Frid, Celeste Holm, Bruce Surtees, William Asher, Larry Hagman, Gore Vidal, Herbert Lom, swordmaster Bob Anderson, Carlo Rambaldi, Nora Ephron, Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Marker, Richard D. Zanuck, and Ernest Borgnine.

Two things I noticed - Jack Klugman - who died the last week of the year, is missing. That sometimes happens. Also notice the death of Frederica Sagor Maas. I believe she was the last person alive who worked as an adult in the silent film industry (1900 -2012). She was a screenwriter who had to reinvent herself after the studio system chewed her up and spit her out.

Perry Mason: Chapter Five
Episode 5, Season 1

This show gets better with every episode
This week 's episode was pivotal. I was completely unimpressed with the first three episodes, but now the script and the players are hitting this out of the park and I see where they were going with this from the beginning.

There are some real transitions in play in the script. As for Paul Drake, it was good to see more of him in this episode. Here he is an intelligent talented insightful African American man, an officer of the law, and he is thrown off of a public beach like he is a loud obnoxious drunk. I love the scenes between Paul and his wife. She's brave and insightful too.

I was looking at the actors playing these characters - I am so glad HBO didn't populate the roles with people that looked like fashion models. They are attractive enough physically, but they are real and it enhances their performances.

There is a clever piece of casting with John Lithgow's actual son playing E.B.'s son. They look alike AND sound alike.

Watch out for a speedy but important scene with Hamilton Burger - yes THAT Hamilton Burger. Something tells me he is going to spend years kicking himself for what he did and take to heart the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished".

If you want to know what I mean by all of this watch and find out. Highly recommended.

Perry Mason: Chapter Four
Episode 4, Season 1

This show is growing on me...
... so when it is over I am going to watch the whole thing again.

This is John Lithgow's shining moment. He deserves an Emmy for this episode alone. I believed him 40 years ago when he played a transgendered person in "The World According to Garp", I believed him as an alien who answered to "A Big Giant Head" in "Third Rock", and I believe him in this show as a once prominent attorney who sees everything slipping away from him, not the least of which is his power of language and gamesmanship. Is he too proud to ask for help, or just that his insight tells him that he would be thrown a brick rather than a lifeline if he did? Probably some of both.

I'm even warming up to Perry Mason as a shell shocked gumshoe who really needs some hints in hygiene but who is a crafty PI. I'm still not sure who the villain is here, but there has got to be a reason the writers are devoting so much time to a Depression era megachurch.

Great acting and good writing in this episode. I'd recommend it.

Perry Mason

Doesn't this guy own a razor or an iron?...
..Because the actual Perry Mason wouldn't be caught dead so habitually and poorly groomed. And then when the series starts I go, OK, so they messed up when they took the dapper attorney and turn him into a film noir era PI except these are the 1930s. So I figure I'll just sit back and see what develops. I didn't like Succession when it first started and now I am a huge fan.

But then they use some kind of Aimee Semple Mcpherson clone, complete with hovering mama to introduce an element of corruption into the plot that is just such an obvious kick at the perceived disingenuous nature of organized religion , even if it was 90 years ago.

The first three episodes were very frustrating. It seemed there was lots of grotesqueness for shock value's sake and that the series was not going anywhere. But from episode four things have begun to pick up and the characters and the plot are really taking form. If I was basing my rating on just the first three episodes I would give this series 5/10. Now that it is hitting on all cylinders it;'s an 8/10.

Also realize that this series is very "woke", but at least the situations and relationships that are depicted here could have happened, even back in the 1930s. . The character I like best is Paul Drake, playing an African American cop in 1931, who knows he has evidence that can change the course of the murder investigation, but he is being pressured by higher ups to keep mum. So he has to weigh his conscience on one side with the fact that he has a very good job for a black man in 1931, and his wife is expecting a child. I'd watch this show with more interest if it was more about him.

Also, the brassy blonde megachurch woman is actually starting to get three dimensional, and from episode six her story just might be headed into Delores Claiborne territory. But that is just my guess.


A cute animated film from Disney
I loved this movie. It is the story of Rapunzel, a princess with magic hair that has the ability to heal. Rapunzel was kidnapped as a child by an old woman who wanted to stay young. She kept Rapunzel captive in a tower in the middle of nowhere, where the two of them lived for 18 years. When the old woman would start experiencing the effects of aging, she'd ask Rapunzel to sing a special song while she brushed Rapunzel's hair. Rapunzel had to sing the same song each time to activate her special powers. Every year on Rapunzel's birthday, her parents, the King and Queen, release two lighted lanterns into the sky, hoping that Rapunzel would see them and come home. Eventually everyone in the kingdom began releasing the lanterns, creating a beautiful "starry" sky. Rapunzel sees these glowing lights every year and wants to see the display in person. Enter Flynn Rider.

Rider, a criminal, stumbles across Rapunzel's tower while on the run. He manages to climb inside the tower. Eventually after Rapunzel is understandably freaked out, she makes a deal with Rider: He must take her to the castle to see the lanterns released, and she will give back his satchel (that she's stolen and hidden) that contains the items he has stolen. Inevitably, the two fall in love and Rapunzel's "mother" is upset that Rapunzel is gone and seeks out to find her.

This was a great movie with fun characters and fun songs. My favorite part was when Flynn takes Rapunzel on a romantic boat ride so she can view the annual lantern display from the best spot in town. The scene is so gorgeous, accompanied by a romantic song. I'm a sucker for sweet romantic stories, even if they are animated. But none top Shrek.


A complete mess of a movie
Harry Cording, best known for playing heavies, has the lead as a doctor who opens a free clinic, then discovers he is running out of money. His Chinese friend, named Gee Wu, thinks that Cording needs some relaxation, so he takes him to the local drug den where they smoke dope. Cording then invents something called "Tiger Fat," which is supposed to cure everything. Too bad it doesn't work on bad acting, directing, writing, editing, and photography.

Cording hawks his "cure" in a few scenes, interspersed with some other scenes of his distraught wife, played by Joan Dix. If you're like me, you've never heard of Dix, probably because she can't act. There is a dope party where everyone gets loaded, some by snorting, others by smoking, and/or injecting. Several people take a "bang," and one guy tells a dame not to get the "ding." None of this nomenclature made any sense to me.

Characters simply appear out of nowhere, and we have no idea who they are. Several scenes are obviously taken from silent films because they are sped up. One snake eats another snake. Gee Wu takes Cording's wife to some guy who looks like Mark Twain, in an attempt to help Cording - which makes no sense, since Wu got Cording in this mess in the first place. And on it goes.

The actor playing Gee Wu (J. Stuart Blackton Jr.) looks like Spock from the original Star Trek TV series.

Lady for a Night

Republic tries for another prestige project that's more than a little derivative.
In this costume comedy-drama set in late 19th century Memphis, gambling hall proprietress Jenny Blake (Joan Blondell) has great wealth but no respect among the snobs in high society. Politician Jackson Morgan (John Wayne) doesn't care about Jenny's reputation, loving her regardless, but his feelings aren't reciprocated, and Jenny marries alcoholic Alan Alderson (Ray Middleton) in order to gain social acceptance, while the Alderson clan want access to Jenny's fortune, having lost theirs in the Civil War. The disapproving Julia (Blanche Yurka) does everything in her power to undermine Jenny's efforts.

The first scenes of the film seem like many other 19th century set pictures where a brash guy tries to romance an equally brassy gal. Things change a bit when Blondell marries and heads to the country estate, where the many similarities to Rebecca begin, with a dark and dour female presence (Blanche Yurka), a deadly secret from the past, and even rumors of ghosts. The movie is hard to take with the drastic shifts in tone from farcical humor to dramatic tension, then on to (a lot) of bad racial jokes and references (Wayne threatens to send a maid "back to Africa" and there are quite a few slurs). It seems like the producers just tried throwing everything into a blender and hoped something potable came out. It sort of did, but you wouldn't want to drink deeply. The movie is saved from failure by the talents of the two leads, Blondell still a sharp cookie even if the waistline was starting to grow, and Wayne was showing much improvement in his acting abilities.

Seinfeld: The Jacket
Episode 3, Season 2

One of the really great early Seinfeld episodes...
... and a personal episode for producer/writer Larry David. The episode is all about Elaine's dad, a famous author and grouch, coming to town. George and Jerry are going to meet Elaine and her father at his hotel for dinner, but Elaine is late. Leaving George and Jerry to try and make conversation with this very intimidating figure, they ultimately both end up hiding in the men's room wondering where Elaine is and how can they possibly get out of this situation. The title comes from the fact that Jerry has just bought a suede jacket that has this loud barber-pole like red and white striped pattern in the lining ,and this jacket is Jerry's prized possesion du jour.

Since Jerry and Elaine have known each other since college, having even dated for awhile, you wonder why Jerry has never met this guy. Maybe it was by design on Elaine's part considering dad's temperament.

The episode comes from Larry David meeting the father of somebody he had been dating who was also a famous author and intimidating grouch. There are also some interesting bits in the DVD extras about the actor who played Elaine's dad, Lawrence Tierney. If you ever wonder why he wasn't a recurring character on the show after doing such a bang up job, apparently he stole a butcher knife off the set of Jerry's kitchen. Jerry actually asked him about it and Tierney said he intended to fake the scene from Psycho and pull the knife from his jacket as "a joke". When you've got even Michael Richards (Kramer) thinking you are crazy you are NOT going to be asked back.

To me, Seinfeld was a show that took a couple of seasons to find its oh so perfect rhythm. This episode was one of the first to be almost perfect with some absolutely fabulous dialogue by David.

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