pizzawarrior1956-1

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Reviews

Top Cat
(1961)

All-time classic series; now complete on DVD
I must admit that I was never a big fan of this show, but after learning that at long last, Warner Home video had issued the COMPLETE SERIES on DVD recently, I just had to take a look; especially since this may be the ONLY chance to view it unless my cable system decides to offer the Cartoon Network's BOOMERANG channel sometime soon.

Despite the fact that the original run of this series was only from 1961-62, "TOP CAT" still has a cult following, as well as a high place on the top 100 Cartoons of All-Time.

From my point of view, the only apparent fault I could find was that some of the episodes could have much shorter; though I am sure the purists out there would disagree.

The four DVD set contains all 30 original episodes, and includes the pilot about the gang's trip to Hawaii, as well as some priceless background information for the serious fanatic out there.

Like other animated prime-time series ("The Flintstones", "The Jetsons", "Rocky & Bullwinkle"), this played to an adult audience as well as the kids; which explains the wide appeal of this program, and its continued durability after 40+ years.

AMAZING !!!

As for quality, all of the episodes have been digitized and restored to their uncut brilliance, complete with the original laugh tracks, that is if you like that kind of thing.

As a result, the show seems not to have aged at all, and consiering that the scripts were first-rate to begin with, it really hasn't.

It is hopefully apparent that along with our other favorites from this Golden Age of 'TV-toons', Warner will make sure that this trend continues; and considering that Hanna-Barbera virtually owned Staurday morning as well as prime time, we should be looking forward to other collections very soon; allowing us baby-boomers to relive our childhoods once more, and share with future generations who otherwise have been deprived of genuine quality entertainment.

After all, if people are willing to pay top dollar for these 'blasts from the past', there isn't much out there anymore to watch.

A Murderous Affair: The Carolyn Warmus Story
(1992)

Another waste of time (I think)
As a longtime fan of Virginia Madsen, I have always felt that she could have done better than playing all of these 'femme-fatales' during that part of her career which includes this.

However, I have since learned that Virginia's influences in her acting were Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis, both masters of film noir.

Perhaps this finally explains this phase of her career, and therefore may deserve some sort of reassessment, so I may be back soon and do some editing here and other places on IMDb.

As for this film, she seems to have captured the essence of Carolyn Warmus, and since it is currently being rerun on the Lifetime Movie Network and may finally be on DVD in this country, others may now come to appreciate her work, now that her career seems to be back on track.

Just Ask My Children
(2001)

Virginia Madsen at her best,, too bad there is no happy ending !!!
To those who may have run across some of my postings here, I have made no secret of my deep appreciation for the talents of actress Virginia Madsen, and that until her Oscar-nominated performance in the movie "Sideways", few people other than me seemed to take much notice.

Now, with Virginia's career back on track, there is going to be increased attention paid to her past accomplishments, in what I hope will be a vindication of faith for those who knew all along !!! Regarding this film, while not perfect; Virginia Madsen gives a sincere and powerful performance as Brenda Kniffin, an average homemaker who finds herself in a fiendish hell that rivals Kafka's "The Trial" in its sadism and insanity.

The tragedy is that this story is all too true.

When Brenda and her husband appear as character witnesses for a couple wanting to adopt two little children, they are caught up in a web of accusations involving child abuse against their own children; and a vindictive criminal justice system out for blood, in an atmosphere of media hype over similar cases (the McMartin case is a prime example), and literally end up losing everything they have; their children, their family and their freedom.

Too bad that this movie is not given more of a Hollywood treatment, and perhaps we would have a more satisfying resolution to this story, for if any story calls for justice and complete vindication, as well as restoration of everything they once had, this one does !!!

The hard part about this movie is that the viewers know going in that the couple is innocent; and they suffer along with them.

Indignity follows indignity as the drama unfolds.

After the initial accusation, the children are taken away; and the house is thoroughly trashed in search for evidence.

Brenda is seen beaten by her cell mates, while her boys are coached by authorities into admitting to things that never happened to them, with the promise that they would go home to their folks.

And then there's the conviction and prison to look forward to.

No matter what the state of California does to right the terrible wrongs that they have done, what amount of money or compensation can be enough to make up for 14 years of hell !!! For the denial of a mother the love of her children !!!! For the theft of their freedom and their children's childhood !!! And most important, how can we forgive ourselves ????

You would think in an enlightened society such as ours, we would avoid an event like the "Salem Witch Trials", but we are soberly reminded that not only do these things still happen, they can happen at any time to any of us.

While the highly-adult subject matter prevents this movie having the vast exposure it deserves, it is showing up more frequently on cable, specifically on the Lifetime Movie channel; so a sterling performance by Virginia Madsen can be finally be apreciated, now that her career is finally taking off.

That has been the story of Virginia's career, in that her best work seems to be lost in a succession of B-movies, DTV and small Indies movies that no one will ever see.

But hopefully, Virginia Madsen will be able to have the opportunity now to share her talents with a growing number of appreciative fans in future roles, ("Firewall", "A Prairie Home Companion", "The Number 23", TV's "Smith"); and rediscover what led up to her return.

-30-
(1959)

A ' lost gem',.. and Who Needs Reality ???
Before I begin, a bit of a 'disclaimer' here.

I grew up watching the old "Dragnet" (the 1950's version), and the second go-round, too in the 60's; as well as the rest of the Jack Webb-produced stable ("Adam-12", "Emergency !").

And I especially enjoyed the movies he made for Warner Bros; my favorites being "The D.I.", the Marine Corps movie and this lost gem, which I had not seen for at least 30 years, until recently.

I finally found a copy of this movie on eBAY, and to my delight I found it to be just as good as I remembered when I first saw on it the Late Show many years ago.

Unfortunately to many in our PC sanitized culture, Jack Webb may be an acquired taste, due to his stiff demeanor and his pro law and order image acquired through "Dragnet"; though to me he is the cornerstone of all I have grown up to love and respect.

We easily forget that he stood for progressive things too, and in this movie, guiding a woman reporter through her first news assignment.

His 1950's demeanor notwithstanding (which seemed humorous now), there was no doubt as Joe Friday that he was the 'good guy', and while as always it would take a little time (with commercials), you knew how the story would end ... HAPPILY, with the crook behind bars; or in this case with the latest edition put to bed.

Okay, many of you purists are a bit too picky about the lack of reality here, probably in reference to what we all liked so much about "Dragnet", and came to expect from Jack Webb; as well as David Nelson being too young to be a Korean War vet.

This is a movie after all, so get over it !!!

And while we can find fault with some of the plot devices in this film, namely the clichés and jokes one has to point out that humor, especially in times of great tension and stress is welcome; unless you go crazy from the experience otherwise.

"Dragnet" was famous for it, and considering the world the policeman inhabits. they need a laugh.

And how about M*A*S*H ???

There was a great deal of humor there as well; and let's remember that the movie and the TV show were set at a front-line Army hospital during the Korean War; and is offered here as a good example of grace under pressure.

And no, David Nelson wasn't there either !!!!!

Though admittedly the humor is a bit heavy-handed, Webb's heart was always in the right place here, and considering what the characters went through in this film, it was definitely called for.

Also a point worthy of praise should go to any movie that includes among the cast of recognizable Webb standbys the talents of William Conrad (radio's Matt Dillion, TV's Cannon), for dramatic as well as comic relief.

Conrad's booming baritone had been a radio staple for many years, and while his equally impressive physical presence is yet another benefit, that he is shown to have a soft side in the role of the beleaguered city editor practically made this movie for me.

This was especially true when the tension begins to heat up, at which point all the humanity possible was needed.

News stories like the little girl lost in the storm drain and the air crash that kills 'Lady 's grandson' were both highly emotional moments, and regrettably happens every day, and must be dealt with in a way that saves the sanity of those who must report it.

While Jack Webb's expertise belongs with the cop on the beat and "Dragnet", and perhaps not with this movie, he gets a solid 'A' for effort in my book here, and it is CRIMINAL that this and much of his film work has been lost in the limbo of OOP home video.

My God, do we need him now; not only his talent, but the integrity he brought to his work in creating those heroic figure we looked up to for so long.

Laughable as they may be now, they truly meant something !!!

The Hot Spot
(1990)

A rethink on a surprisingly good film-noir; BUT, STILL........
A while back, I commented on this film, only to later delete my comment out of frustration, because of a certain cast member's performance.

I am therefore very glad to come back and have another opportunity to express myself.

To begin with, I still think Virginia Madsen was miscast in the role of Dolly Harshaw, but I must concede that her performance was not as disturbing as I first thought.

Of course, in 1990, this movie did push the envelope regarding sensuality, but today it seems to be rather tame, that is when you compare similar movies being made.

My problem is that while Virginia did force up the thermostat, you could tell she was still new to the role of 'femme-fatale' and her body language gave away a great deal of unease.

She recently said that she would want to play such a role again if the script was right, and I am willing to agree with her especially since she is older and wiser... and SEXIER.

But, clearly she was not up to par here.

As to the rest of the movie, this is CLASSIC FILM-NOIR !!!! However, I think it would have played better in another Southern location, like Georgia or Louisiana; someplace HUMID !!! But, from what we have here, it is a surprisingly good story.

Don Johson has a chance to knock off the local bank, as well as TWO pieces of hot local talent; one of them his boss's wife.

HOW AUDACIOUS !!! And between the innocence of Jennifer Conolley and the sexiness of Virginia Madsen to turn his head, it is no wonder what happens in the end.

But you will find that out !!!! Depending on your point of view, it is too bad that this movie didn't get more notice in general release, but from the way the members of the cast made out, WHO CARES !!!!

Mister Scoutmaster
(1953)

Mr Belvedere 'takes a hike' !!!
WARNING: MAY contain some minor spoilers.

Hard to say anything bad about this movie, except for one thing.

YOU DON'T GET TO SEE IT MUCH ANYMORE !!!! Then again, maybe that's because you have to be home in the morning or at 3 am to catch it the Fox Movie channel.

Too bad, for this is another gem lost to time, Clifton Webb takes his patented sour, know-it-all demeanor he had perfected as Lynn Belvedere ("Sitting Pretty" and sequels), and turns 'Nature Boy'.

Actually, it's like this.

Webb plays Robert Jordan the host of a Sunday children's educational program that is losing audience share, and the network breaks it to him that he needs to do something about it, or else.

Part of the problem may be due to the fact that the married host has no children.

BUMMER !!! But as such things happen, the local church pastor needs a leader for an unruly troop of Boy Scouts, and finds a willing victim ... ahhhh 'VOLUNTEER' ... in the host, so Jordan he takes the position.

Problem solved, RIGHT ???

WRONG !!! This being a movie there are other problems.

For example, it turns out one of the Scouts is the son of his boss at the TV station, which causes a little friction; especially since the kid is overweight, has asthma as well as an attitude.

And he is the more reasonable one.

Also, there is this Cub Scout, Mike (George Winslow) who wants to hang around, being the 'stray puppy' type.

As it turns out, the reason is that he has no folks of his own, but is cared for by a relative who hasn't much time for him.

It is things like this that makes his job harder than expected.

All in all, Webb becomes more understanding of kids, and not only saves his show but learns a rewarding lesson, and eventually even adopts Mike.

Still a great movie after all these years.

My Pal Gus
(1952)

Richard Widmark DOES have a soft side.
Once again, we have an example here of a movie that has been lost to the limbo of cable TV somewhere.

It is unfortunate that when AMC lost Nick Clooney as a host, and decided that movies 5 or 10 years old and in COLOR should be CLASSICS, and then chose to forget about some movies that were 'middle-aged', (being from the '50s) and black & white.

Talk about discrimination !!!

Well, maybe Turner Classics or the Fox Movie channel may think otherwise someday, but for now we seem to be deprived of some real treasures.

For example, here is a family classic deserving of praise, as well as being seen much more often.

Here we have tough-guy Richard Widmark showing off his 'soft side' and his parenting skills.

Or, rather the lack of them.

It seems that his son Gus, played by George Winslow (old 'Foghorn')is not behaving himself, so his frustrated male parent takes him to a nursery school, run by Joanne Dru.

As we all know, or should know, Ms Dru is not the usual image one would conjure as a 'schoolmarm', which also doesn't escape the notice of Mr Widmark.

While it is not long before Gus is well-behaved, now the father wants to stay after school with 'teacher'.

Naughty, Naughty !!!!

Well, not really !!!

You see, Father is divorced and has sole custody of the child, (a rare thing in the 1950's), and considering wife Carolyn Jones and HER parenting skills, who can blame the court.

It appears that being a businessman takes a great deal out of his time (Widmark runs a company that makes ice-cream and candy).

WHAT ????????

Yes, you heard right, tough-guy RW makes bons-bons, not BOMB-BOMBS !!!

Anyway the teacher obliges by tutoring Father about kids in general, and in so doing allowing him to win his son's love and respect, and in the end winning the teacher's hand.

But, things don't work out well when his wife names the teacher in her divorce action, resulting in a nasty trial that nearly undoes everything.

But my friends, trust old time Hollywood to win the day, as all turns out well in the end.

Of course, this was the usual Hollywood studio effort before television and the studio system was broken up to make room for those NEW CLASSICS on AMC.

Too bad Hollywood had to grow up !!!!

Hope we don't !!!

And I hope we see this gem again real soon.

Fail-Safe
(1964)

Despite its limitations, A Thought-provoking Cold War drama
I mentioned in another comment about a series of movies made during the mid-1960's, that I call 'political noir'.

These films are easy to spot, in that there were made in B&W, dealt with a American institutional crisis and seemed to always feature Henry Fonda somewhere in the cast.

On all three counts, this film fits that criteria.

Because this film came out around the time of "Dr Strangelove", it was somewhat overshadowed, and because of the nearly identical plots, there was even talk of plagiarism, even though this film was based on a novel by two Washington-based journalists with a remarkable insight of the workings of government and was directed by Sidney Lument, one of the cinema's great directors.

Also, unlike "Dr Strangelove", which seemed to receive major studio backing, money and the freedom offered by being produced in Great Britain where this satire was more appreciated, "Fail-Safe" was independently produced in New York on a limited budget, without official backing by the Defense Department, which explains all of the flaws complained of by many viewers and posters on this site.

Yet in spite of these limitations, Lument pulls off a major coup by presenting us with an authentic piece of Armeggeddon.

In a real-time view, we watch as a million-to-one technical fault 'orders' a wing of American bombers to attack Soviet Russia, and the Defense Department and the President are helpless in trying to stop it.

We are also witness to how our military operates, trying to plan military policy, and debating theory and possible results.

Such things are sensible and harmless as far as these things go, until 'the day comes' when reality displaces theory.

Walter Matthau, who is more well-known for his comic talents ("The Odd Couple", "Grumpy Old Men"), than being an accomplished dramatic actor, is shown at the height of his powers as Prof. Groteschelle; a defense policy wonk, whose obsession with defense preparedness and Marxist theory reaches the point of detachment from human emotion, as he blindly recommends that no action be taken and the bombers be allowed to complete their mission, resulting in 'final victory' over Communism.

This is in direct contradiction to General Black, a compassionate Air Force officer who is also an intellectual, who desperately urges that every means be made to stop the bombers before it is too late.

However, it turns out to be too late, at least on the American side.

We watch how technology becomes a hindrance, as much as the distrust between the two superpowers seems to be, as the President and the Soviet Premier desperately try to seek a solution to this disaster.

The tragedy about this is that someone thought they should remake this in 2000, which in a way is flattering but certainly could not come close to the original work.

But, this only proves that the subject of 'accidental war' is still a concern.

However, how can one do better than Henry Fonda ???

The Moonshine War
(1970)

Not that bad, for what it is. A LOT OF FUN, TOO !!!
Being from Louisville, Kentucky, it is hard to be objective about this movie.

Considering the times this film depicts, that is the closing days of Prohibition and in the depths of the Great Depression, it is also hard to take these characters too seriously, for after all they are all on the make in some way, which makes this so much fun to watch.

You don't give a damn who wins !!!!

Patrick McGoohan's character as a crooked G-Man is par for the course, and Richard Widmark's corrupt dentist with his little sexy bundle in tow and other hangers-on may not be your average Louisvillian, though I imagine he does need a fair amount of medicinal alcohol for his private use, especially around Derby Week !!! (After all, what's a Mint Julep without bourbon.)

Alan Alda is quite good as 'Son Martin', who is sitting on a fortune in moonshine, patiently waiting for repeal.

Add all the local color provided by a good supporting cast, and you have a watchable movie, though you do have all these Hollywood types trying to get by with bad Southern drawls and over-the-top acting.

One highlight is seeing a young Teri Garr strip naked at gunpoint,(at least I think it was her, since we had a brief rear view. Could have been a body double).

Best watched with a full jar !!!!

The Bedford Incident
(1965)

"MOBY DICK" update for the Cold War, (and Barry Goldwater too !!!)
In the 1960's, a certain type of film gained popularity, just in time for the 1964 election, Vietnam and the warning of President Eisenhower about the "military-industiral complex" at the end of his term.

I call this type "political-noir", and can usually be identified as being in B&W, involves a military-political crisis of some kind and a revered American institution, and usually features Henry Fonda in the cast !!!

Of course, this is not a hard-fast rule, and there is always an exception, such as this fine Cold War thriller.

The story is an ingenious takeoff on Herman Melville's classic, "Moby Dick"; in this case the captain of an American destroyer is obsessed with forcing a Russian sub to surface, after being caught in Arctic waters.

Unfortunately, he is frustrated by the higher-ups due to political considerations, and has to wait, and in time the sub breaks for the open sea, forcing the ship's captain to continue the confrontation by giving chase, as did Captain Ahab in pursuit the "great white whale".

In this film, Richard Widmark is convincing as the Ahab character, a supremely dedicated Navy officer who is good at his job, though a bit fanatical about it.

He seems to inspire loyalty from his crew, involving them in "the hunt", so much so that they turn down lucrative civilian positions to stay on his ship.

He is also a rather hard-nosed disciplinarian, and is very harsh with certain members of the crew, such as the new ship's doctor (Martin Balsam) and an over eager ensign (James MacArthur), who is ridden so hard that it would have tragic results later in the story.

Naturally, Widmark's character, Captain Eric Finlander, is presented as a right-winger, reflecting the political schism of the times; showing him make rather hawkish statements, and even seeming to take on the persona of conservative icon Barry Goldwater,(an illusion that Widmark creates by wearing eyeglasses during briefings), at one point becoming so extreme as to frighten an ex-Nazi sub commander(Eric Portman)who happens to be on board during this cruise.

It is obvious that Hollywood was making a strong political statement with this film in 1965, as did others of this genre; warning us all about the extremism of the far-right, a stance that seems to be still prevalent today.

It is also noted that such topics were new and exotic at this time, due to the liberalization of Hollywood following the dropping of the 'blacklist' in the early 1960's, which also explains the hardened political stance expressed in this and other 'political noir' films.

However, in spite of the political message, this is still an enjoyable, taunt thriller.

The first-rate supporting cast includes great performances in key points, from Sidney Poitier's race-neutral role as an investigative journalist, to Martin Balsam's frustrated ship's doctor and an array of small roles populated by familiar faces; Wally Cox, James MacArthur and a very young Donald Sutherland as a medical technician.

Some surrealism is also noted in at least one scene, when Balsam briefs his staff of orderlies, and they all seem to be Asians !!!

A minor point, though it is safe to assume this also reflects the times as much as the makeup of the crew.

As the movie builds to its shattering climax, the excitement seems to permeate every frame, as we watch Captain Finlander and the crew gradually self-destruct under the overwhelming tension.

As with many war films, ("Twelve O'Clock High" being a great example) it is effective in showing how some men, especially those in command authority, are prepared to go all the way with their missions, eventually reaching their breaking point, with sometimes tragic results.

Though the political stance of this film was reflective of the time, even 40 years later, this movie still packs a wallop, as it will certainly will be just as entertaining 40 years from now, for the lessons illustrated here are constant in man's experiences of war, as well as peace.

Especially now, in light of Iraq !!!

We all need to be reminded that in spite of the feeling that ordinary men can do extraordinary things under the right circumstances, others can't, and the results may be tragic.

It is a lesson that always needs to be learned.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire
(1961)

One of the best, if not the Best Sci-Fi movies ever made.
In an age of multi-million dollar productions that use large amounts of CG and little story, it is good to remember how cinema has progressed.

Concerning the realm of science-fiction, the 1950's and the early 60's is still best of the genre.

EVEN TODAY !!

And in regards to any particular film, "The Day the Earth Caught Fire", is by far the best of the best.

PERIOD !!!

Try comparing this film with a current blockbuster like "The Day After Tomorrow".

YOU CAN'T !!!

Mind you there are both great films, but in terms of story, production values and the power to generate blind terror, few can match this imaginative British production, which admittedly lacked money, but did use what it had to remarkable effect; as well a great cast and brilliant use of B&W cinematography.

The movie begins near the end, (which I promise not to reveal here), as a reporter, Peter Stennig, walks through downtown London, which is turning into a desert wasteland under a blazing sun; a situation we will learn later had been brought about by nuclear testing impossibly gone awry.

In his story for what may be the FINAL EDITION of his paper, he recounts how three months before, the weather had begun to change after a double nuclear test by the superpowers at the North and South Poles.

Torrential rains, followed by summer-like heat, a freak heat mist and a powerful cyclone; all along the temperature rising steadily to 145 degrees, creating a severe drought worldwide.

The film's plot is convincingly sold to the audience with minimal special effects and newsreel footage; as well as costume changes, electric fans and heavy perspiring by the cast.

Of course, we learn the enormity of the situation when it is revealed that the bomb tests have changed the earth's axis and effected the earth's climate.

But, that is only the beginning.

In between, we are involved with the main characters of the story, such as Stennig, a once great reporter who has lost his wife to another man, and has taken to drink; and his fatherly mentor and best friend who covers for him.

Then there is the woman who enters his life, while researching the weather story, who turns out to be his salvation, just as it seems that the world is about to end.

The fun of sci-fi in this era is the knowledge that there is never enough money or support to do it right; so we watch how the production team achieves their results, ususally with cheesy results.

While those limitation are apparent here, they have succeeded in bringing about a masterpiece.

In its power to frighten as well as entertain, there is no comparison, and it make us think as well.

While global warming may not be preventable, nuclear testing and its power to pollute the environment as well as make WWIII our 'last hooray' is well known, and while the idea that testing may tilt the earths's axis or even worse may sound far-fetched, to a 1960's audience living under the threat of total destruction, it may not be that improbable at all.

And of course, that is what makes good cinema !!!

All in all, a great film.

Good Night, and Good Luck.
(2005)

A great idea for a movie, BUT ....
Before I begin, I must admit to all of you that I have yet to see this movie.

But as a student of history, especially of the period depicted in this film, one cannot avoid mentioning its potential influence, as well as the protagonists depicted.

Every era has its Murrow and McCarthy.

In our history, we have experienced threats to our civil liberties and there would be those who would come to their defense, and it is good to be reminded of the importance of this struggle.

It would not take a real genius to do a halfway decent job of telling this story, especially if director/producer George Clooney simply sticks to the basics, and I am sure that is exactly what he will accomplish, in spite of the fact that other films ("MURROW" and "TAIL GUNNER JOE") have already dealt with this subject.

Of course, Clooney and Company can't be blamed for allowing their generation to make a statement, and while I hope they will be successful, it would be good that in the telling of this story, THIS TIME, they should delve towards who may be the true villain of the piece--and that is, THE MEDIA !!!!!

This is especially important today with the unprecedented power the 24/7 cable outlets now wield, and the clear potential for idealogical distortion of the news, which in itself is even more dangerous than Communism ever could be.

The fear of Communism existed long before McCarthy, dating back to the 1920's, when some obscure laws and a technicality about WWI not ending until 1921, allowed a Justice Department clerk named J. Edgar Hoover to advise the Attorney General to legally round up and deport a group of anarchists to Soviet Russia, after a series of bombings, including a 9/11 style attack in NYC in 1920.

Newspapers went out of their way to sensationalize crime and scandal, as well as create mythic folk-heroes that to this day evoke fond memories, as well as villains.

In the late 1940's, the hysterical response to spies and Communist sympathizers seeming to infest all walks of American life was once again picked up by those in the media, this time unwittingly helping to create a climate of fear that would start a unstoppable "feeding frenzy".

The Alger Hiss case and the Rosenbergs were well covered in the press, mostly in sensational headlines that sold newspapers, making the Communist threat highly profitable as well as being newsworthy.

And with the Russians having the A-bomb and the ensuing threat of WWIII, an unprecedented period of anxiety swept the nation, just waiting for some event to touch off a reaction.

In February, 1950, an obscure U.S. senator named Joseph R. McCarthy made a speech in Wheeling, WV, charging that 205 members of the State Department were 'card-carrying Communists' and a treat to our national security.

Almost immediately, a new media star was born, as the press repeated McCarthy's charges without bothering to investigate their validity, even though his numbers kept changing and McCarthy's own reputation was highly questionable.

With the start of the Korean War, the media seemed to be swept along with all the rest of society, reporting the threat as well as the 'sideshow' behind it.

As it turned out, McCarthy never found any Communists, though he did create the climate that forced people out of their jobs, mostly by superiors fearing for their own situation, not want to appear to be Communist sympathizers themselves.

While some brave souls spoke against this insanity, they would do so to at great risk, losing their livelihoods or even worse.

In short, it was an atmosphere that forced the majority to be silent and not rock the boat.

Meanwhile, McCarthy and his ilk soldered on, which would include vicious, right-wing vigilantes who would force liberals out of all walks of life; as well as some strange allies.

Joseph P. Kennedy was an early McCarthy supporter; and Bobby Kennedy actually served on McCarthy's Senate investigating committee as one of the minority counsels !!!!

Then came Edward R. Murrow, a journalist who worked with the BBC during the war, free from commercial influences and with the support of CBS, would broadcast a series of reports that finally responded to the McCarthy threat in 1954.

While it is true that Murrow got in some good licks at McCarthy's expense, the Senator's eventual downfall later that year during the Army-McCarthy hearings was really his own doing.

It was his performance on TV, as well as his heavy-handed tactics and bullying that finally damned him for what he was; and while Murrow deserves much creditfor this, the names of Army counsel Joseph Welch, and Missouri Senator Stuart Symington need to be mentioned also for allowing McCarthy to hang himself.

It is important then that we understand that things like McCarthyism cannot flourish without the unwitting cooperation of others, especially those who are supposed to be the guardians of our freedom, such as the media.

After all, the press is the only organization granted special protection under the First Amendment, other than religion, and those in the media should remember that they should wise use their power, and use it responsibly.

And as the evidence shows quite clearly, IT CAN HAPPEN AGAIN !!!!

Therefore, we need to remember Murrow, and I am certain that this movie will do him justice, in spite of the potential flaws.

BRAVO !!!

Fear on Trial
(1975)

A reminder of our past= a solid film=Should be on video !!!!
"Fear on Trial" is the story of John Henry Faulk (William Devane), a rising personality on CBS in the 1950's, who is suddenly deprived of his livelihood after being accused of Communist sympathies and blacklisted.

Unlike others in this situation, he secures the services of a prominent attorney, Louis Nizer (George C. Scott), and sues his accusers for libel, winning a generous settlement in a landmark trial, ending the climate of fear begun under McCarthyism.

A great film that should be on home video, a reminder of how precious and vulnerable our freedoms are.

Salvage 1: Salvage
(1979)
Episode 0, Season 1

A lost gem from the 1970's, AND IT'S ON VIDEO !!!!!!
This is a special memory for those of a certain age, who still believed that anything was possible, especially if it is explained in such a way as to be believable.

Imagine a millionaire junk man putting together a spaceship in his junkyard, and with the help of a ex-astronaut and an attractive explosives expert, flies to the moon to salvage the remains of the Apollo missions !!!!

Not that far-fetched really, at least after watching this intelligently-written, imaginative movie.

Star Andy Griffith still shines true as the American 'everyman', a character he perfected after all his years in Mayberry, with a likable supporting cast backing him up.

Joel Higgins is laid back just enough as astronaut Addison "Skip" Carmichael; who has perfected "The Trans-Linear Vector Principle", as a surefire way to get to the moon; and Trish Stewart is great, playing an intelligent, though beautiful woman; whose knowledge of explosives creates the 'super rocket fuel' necessary to bring the project together.

All in all, a GREAT MOVIE that still holds up !!!!

And by the way, IT IS ON HOME VIDEO !!!

I have recently learned that a DVD set featuring the COMPLETE TV series is available, which includes this film, which was the official series pilot.

I have only seen it available on eBay, and is going for top dollar, so check around.

Ironclads
(1991)

Great period piece, Good special effects. Virginia Madsen is elegant in period costume.
What can you say about a made-for-TV Civil War epic from Ted Turner's TNT Network ??? Well, considering that the money went into the great ships pictured in the battle, you aren't going to expect much of a story, beyond the basics.

Of course, you do get a good cast of veterans (E.G. Marshall and Fritz Weaver in key roles), as well as some new faces (Reed Diamond)

And it certainly doesn't hurt to have Virginia Madsen wearing a 'bussle', and for once, keeping it and the rest of her clothes on !!!

NO SARCASM MEANT HERE, THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!!

Whether this movie sinks or not, it is quite an accomplishment for her to play the role of the Southern belle with style and dignity, and still makes a play for two handsome swains from BOTH sides, without even revealing her petticoat !!!

Of course she has to play the field, being a Union spy, and sometimes work gets in the way of a little romance, especially when she must shelter a Union sailor who is posing as a deserter, in order to transmit vital secrets about the Confederacy's new 'super weapon'.

As a result, she almost gets her pretty little neck stretched for her near the end, as well as losing both of her romantic interests.

Unfortunately, there aren't much fireworks beyond the big battle scene between the Monitor and the Merrimack (or Virginia), due to the need to be 'politically-correct' about certain subjects.

But from what we have here, we learn something about a crucial event in American history, as well as being a harmless way to waste a Sunday afternoon, or whenever.

Bitter Vengeance
(1994)

A great change of pace for Virginia Madsen, Very Good movie.
Though this is not a GREAT movie, it is a VERY, VERY GOOD movie; and for once Virginia Madsen plays a character which not only do we have some sympathy for, but also very likable as well.

"Bitter Vengeance" tells how an ex-cop pulls off the so-called 'perfect crime', as well as what may be the 'perfect getaway', by faking his own death, and pinning his 'murder' on his stunned wife !!! Usually, Virginia is cast as the accomplice in this type of story, judging from her more recent work, so this is something new and something good for her, for she seems to be more suited to this type of role.

And when she discovers what really happened, she goes hunting down her hubby and his sexy mistress, with some help from friends and a handsome detective.

From her past credits and knowing her abilities, I would not want to be in Bruce Greenwood's shoes at the end.

Once again, it is good to see Virginia Madsen in such a role, and while I am not sure why she took this part, it is my hope that she learns that it is good to play such a role once in a while, and she seeks these roles out more often.

While she has every right to try her talent in new and daring venues, her audience deserves something like this, to be reminded how special she really is.

All in all, a VERY GOOD MOVIE !!!!!!!

Fire with Fire
(1986)

Virginia Madsen at her best, wish they were ALL this good !!!
Next to "Electric dreams", this is my FAVORITE Virginia Madsen movie.

Though you would not expect her to always play such an angelic creature, if she had been more thoughtful in her choice of future roles, she probably would have avoided the big 'crash and burn' that her career would later go through.

But considering the love story, this was almost perfect !!!

Also, since she played this when she was well into her 20's, obviously this was among her last 'teen' roles, and what makes this so enjoyable is Virginia's ageless beauty, and that she is able to pull this off.

She also seems to present a great deal of herself in this role; like her obvious love of music and photography, and her not being able to cook !!! Well, who knows !!! In any event, the tastefulness in the love scenes are also a plus !!! Though she would go on to play more adult roles, and turn strongly towards 'femme-fatales', it is good to return to something like this, to show how well she can play the virginial innocent.

Too bad she didn't stick to what she was good at, perhaps either Hollywood didn't have much to offer her, or she decided to experiment in other genre,

But after "Sideways", she will have nothing more to be sorry about.

American Gun
(2002)

A Movie that should be seen, Fitting Swan-Song for James Coburn, Virginia Madsen gives amazing performance
Once again, my seeing this movie was predicated on Virginia Madsen's appearance in it; and when I noticed her character, Penny Tillman, being killed off in the first few minutes, I was tempted to walk away.

However, rather than this being another waste of her talent, which has seemed to be happening a lot lately, it turned out to be one of her more powerful performances.

We watch her character age from her teens to early middle-age, I would assume because of her having a teen-aged daughter, only to be gunned down in a random act of violence just as she is reconnecting with her estranged father.

Certainly a profound tragedy to any family when such a person is lost.

From my reading of the Tillman family, these are proud, but loving people in their own way, and big, gruff Martin Tillman would seem to be the most loving of all.

Traumatized by his experiences in WWII already, he now has the added burden of dealing with his daughter's death, which he decides to handle in his own way.

After gaining possession the gun that killed Penny, he tracks down its past owners, one by one, leading up to the murder; a plot device I have seen used before in a similar movie about 30 years ago.

At the same time, he must face his teenaged granddaughter, who must be told about her mother's death.

Leading up to the end, there are some strange plot twists in the film that are not clear, which I cannot reveal without ruining the ending for you, so it will not be mentioned further here.

While the resulting presentation makes a strong case about guns in our society, it is not really so much an anti-gun film, but really more about accepting responsibility for one's actions, and trying afterwards to cope with life as best we can and move on.

This Martin does, but not without a profound sadness, which you will understand at the end.

It was unfortunate that in his final screen appearance before his death, that James Coburn did not receive more notice for his powerful, heart-felt performance, which certainly deserved an Oscar nomination or some other award.

As for the movie itself it did receive far too little attention in the theater; though it can be easily found on video.

Finally, I must say that Virginia Madsen once again gives another great performance that has been ignored, and in light of her success in the 2004 movie "Sideways", deserves to be seen to show the further development of a great screen talent.

For more than a few reasons, definitely seek this one out.

Almost Salinas
(2001)

Virginia Madsen at her very best, A Great Ensemble Cast and a Wonderfully Nostalgic Story.
Being a fan of actress Virginia Madsen, I have been especially looking forward to seeing this movie, and have long sought a copy for my video collection.

After finally locating one through a source in Austrailia, I recently saw it and found it to be worth the wait.

For the life of me, I don't know why this film didn't get more attention; then again I am sure there are reasons, such as being an independent film and automatically not going beyond the art houses, and perhaps the cast being mostly middle-aged and older, which probably would not interest the Gen Xers.

It is a shame though, being such a fine film, with a good story and a great cast, and not to mention one of Virginia Madsen's best performances.

One thing for certain is that Virginia has remained consistent, in that she seems to do her best work in movies no one ever gets to see, such as her remarkable performance in "American Gun", in which we watch her character successfully age from a teenager to middle-age.

Once again, another film that deserved more attention, but at least it is on video and has even been on cable once or twice.

From what I have been reading lately, she seems to want to continue making independent movies in the future, a very wise move if you ask me, when you consider her early career and her treatment in 'mainstream' movies.

I hope with her unqualified success in "Sideways", she will now be noticed, and that she will get much better roles that are worthy of her in much better films; though admittedly it is going to be hard to top her Oscar-nominated performance as Maya.

In any event, she deserves it !!!

In regards to this film, the producers do a great deal with their limited budget and resources, by cleverly telling a 'story within a story', that is the making a 'bio-pic' about actor James Dean.

This gives the film a rather warm, nostalgic feel; as does the retro-50's gas station reopened by John Mahoney's character; and though the cast is decidedly older and middle-aged (hard to think of Virginia Madsen that way !!!), there is a slight nod to the Xers in the cast as well.

Too bad that this film never found its audience, especially with such a likable cast, that includes an array of quirky and lovable characters, for this is a movie I would want to see often, even if Virginia Madsen wasn't in the cast.

In the past, more often than not, when I found any movie Virginia Madsen was in, I tend to just zip through it to note what scenes she appeared in, then putting the video away to gather dust somewhere.

Not this time !!!

In my opinion, "Almost Salinas" is an example of what an independent film is all about, and hopefully is a reflection of not only Virginia Madsen's continued good fortune, but also a general trend towards what film should be; that is a production that deals in more human terms and away from the big-budget spectacles that have been shoved down the public's throat lately.

Take my word on this, seek this one out by all means, even if you have to go to Austrailia to find a copy, like I did.

You won't regret it !!!

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