Scarecrow-88

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Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
(1975)

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
What a nice surprise! This might have actually eclipsed the Thanksgiving special on my Peanuts Holiday Favorite's list. "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown" focuses on Chuck's desperate desire to get a Valentine from a little redheaded girl in class...or just a Valentine period. There are some sidebar pieces such as Lucy "being entertained" by a "theater performance" (complete with dumping mud and garbage on her "for effect") destroying Schroeder's piano in a fit of rage because he is too busy focusing on his pounding the keys instead of her flirtatious prodding. Linus is set on giving his single adult teacher a heart-shaped box of chocolates while Sally expects that he will be giving them to her (despite all the signs that Linus isn't any more interested in her as Schroeder is in Lucy), and Snoopy offers his mad paper scissor cutting skills in a "training session" to Lucy, who wants to learn how to form a heart shaped Valentine out of a sheet of paper...Snoopy out cuts from paper folded a complete Valentine music box, quite a thing of extraordinary craftsmanship! There is even Snoopy and Woodstock making Valentines for each other, delivering them as they only can: a bit on the nose. My favorite scene has Linus so enraged at Valentine's Day after his teacher leaves school with her boyfriend he tosses his chocolates off a bridge...right into the mouths of Snoopy and Woodstock. Mainly, though, the special focuses on poor Charlie Brown kvetching and agonizing over not getting a Valentine, a concern that many a student perhaps has had on Valentine's Day at school in the past (or present) and can relate to. The "Lucy goes to the movie" sidebar featuring a busy Snoopy tending to the drinks, popcorn, ticket booth, and show with Chuck serving as narrator is a nice little addition to the special. This doesn't feature some of the characters you know and love (no Peppermint Patty, Marcy, or Pigpen, for examples), but I think "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown" will be a nice sleeper for Peanuts fans new to it. This was my very first viewing of it and I was happily surprised (although, I don't know why I should be, Peanuts never usually lets me down) with its entirety, even with a spirited Schroeder (he also hands out the Valentines and tells Chuck, always asking if he has one, to be patient and wait) taking the girls in class to task for not giving Charlie Brown a Valentine and how only guilt and to ease their conscience did they decide to do so the next day. While mostly at his piano practicing or playing Beethoven, Schroeder was given a lot more to do in this special. I do wonder why Patty wasn't included in the special...you could just imagine how she could have tormented Chuck. There are two more specials on my Special Edition Set so I look forward to seeing if they serve as nice extensions to "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown". When Chuck is checking the Valentines box for a card, feverishly feeling and investigating intensely, finding nothing, tossing the box outside the window, I think many can understand his frustrations.

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
(1975)

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown
What a nice surprise! This might have actually eclipsed the Thanksgiving special on my Peanuts Holiday Favorite's list. "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown" focuses on Chuck's desperate desire to get a Valentine from a little redheaded girl in class...or just a Valentine period. There are some sidebar pieces such as Lucy "being entertained" by a "theater performance" (complete with dumping mud and garbage on her "for effect") destroying Schroeder's piano in a fit of rage because he is too busy focusing on his pounding the keys instead of her flirtatious prodding. Linus is set on giving his single adult teacher a heart-shaped box of chocolates while Sally expects that he will be giving them to her (despite all the signs that Linus isn't any more interested in her as Schroeder is in Lucy), and Snoopy offers his mad paper scissor cutting skills in a "training session" to Lucy, who wants to learn how to form a heart shaped Valentine out of a sheet of paper...Snoopy out cuts from paper folded a complete Valentine music box, quite a thing of extraordinary craftsmanship! There is even Snoopy and Woodstock making Valentines for each other, delivering them as they only can: a bit on the nose. My favorite scene has Linus so enraged at Valentine's Day after his teacher leaves school with her boyfriend he tosses his chocolates off a bridge...right into the mouths of Snoopy and Woodstock. Mainly, though, the special focuses on poor Charlie Brown kvetching and agonizing over not getting a Valentine, a concern that many a student perhaps has had on Valentine's Day at school in the past (or present) and can relate to. The "Lucy goes to the movie" sidebar featuring a busy Snoopy tending to the drinks, popcorn, ticket booth, and show with Chuck serving as narrator is a nice little addition to the special. This doesn't feature some of the characters you know and love (no Peppermint Patty, Marcy, or Pigpen, for examples), but I think "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown" will be a nice sleeper for Peanuts fans new to it. This was my very first viewing of it and I was happily surprised (although, I don't know why I should be, Peanuts never usually lets me down) with its entirety, even with a spirited Schroeder (he also hands out the Valentines and tells Chuck, always asking if he has one, to be patient and wait) taking the girls in class to task for not giving Charlie Brown a Valentine and how only guilt and to ease their conscience did they decide to do so the next day. While mostly at his piano practicing or playing Beethoven, Schroeder was given a lot more to do in this special. I do wonder why Patty wasn't included in the special...you could just imagine how she could have tormented Chuck. There are two more specials on my Special Edition Set so I look forward to seeing if they serve as nice extensions to "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown". When Chuck is checking the Valentines box for a card, feverishly feeling and investigating intensely, finding nothing, tossing the box outside the window, I think many can understand his frustrations.

3 Godfathers
(1948)

3 Godfathers
Three bank robbers (John Wayne, Harry Carey, Jr., and Pedro Armendáriz) flee from their latest heist out of Welcome, Arizona (I absolutely love that name!), escaping into a sun-baked, water-deprived hellish desert, pursued by Welcome's sheriff (Ward Bond, wonderful) and deputized locals, eventually coming upon an abandoned stage (with a pregnant woman, left inside by a "tenderfoot" husband who dynamited a watering hole, chasing after livestock, never to return), having to carry with them a baby after his mother dies after childbirth. The dying mother makes the three criminals on the lam promise to take care of her child, decreeing them his godfathers. While Bond cuts off each water depot and station, Carey, Jr. is gradually dying from a shoulder wound, one of their water bags was bullet-holed, Pedro eventually trips over a hill and breaks a leg, and Wayne must look into the bible to gain wisdom. While the included nativity story symbolism and ties are indeed, as many have felt and documented, quite heavy-handed (the mule and colt at the end, especially contrived) and perhaps will turn off some, I didn't personally mind that. Ford didn't do that often, except for the occasional use of "Bringing in the Sheaves" and "Shall We Gather at the River" as music. Carey, Jr. provides some lovely lullaby vocals to the baby while cradling him, despite being a criminal with notoriety as the "Abilene Kid". Wayne "greasing" the baby as his partners chuckle was perhaps the weirdest moment in the film although there wasn't much water for a true bathing. Wayne ill as a hornet's nest as Pedro reads from a doctor's guide on tending to babies (kept in the mother's suitcase full of baby-related articles, such as clothes, a brush, baby milk, etc.) he sincerely disagrees with was amusing. Bond and Wayne outsmarting each other (Wayne's path towards water would have been successful has the tenderfoot not left the well not only destroyed but never of use again), the pursuer and the quarry having to devise plans to catch or evade each other is really the meat of the film. The "three magi" and precious baby they see fit to protect and keep from harm under the harsh environs of the desert is really introduced towards the middle of the film, and eventually Wayne loses his two compadres, forced to brave over a mountain after passing through saltflats alone. The ending is nicely pat and heart-affirming as Wayne, because of his efforts in keeping the baby safe and secure despite collapsing from heat exhaustion at one point, is recognized by Bond, a jury of his peers, and the judge (at sentencing) worthy of forgiveness despite having to serve a year for the robbery of the bank at Welcome...and why not? Wayne's love for the child and unwillingness to just sign off his rights to Bond and his wife (the deceased mother was their niece) is enough to establish how important he is to the reforming outlaw. John Ford sure convinces me of the harshness and scorching heat as the three outlaws endure the long walk once a sandstorm overtakes them and the horses leave them...I needed to guzzle some water just as a viewer! Ford makes sure to emphasize that these guys suffer from their sins, punishment by the hot of the sun, a small canteen of water they must share (with the baby eventually becoming most important, and the worsening Carey forced to take water until he drops from the wound, unable to properly get it mended/healed), and miles of walk that certainly fills the heart and mind with dread. The location shooting, Ford's impressive compositions (Carey's death as Wayne protects the sun from his face as Pedro reads a bible passage at his request, the three burying the mother on a small hill as the day darkens into night, the sand winds rustling the burial site and stage after the three outlaws embark on the remaining journey, the sand storm that blazes across the landscape overwhelming the three outlaws, the outlaws at the dying side of the mother, etc.), tragic deaths that turn on the tear ducts, and the unusual development of three outlaws dedicated to a baby left in their care unexpectedly make for quite a film. While never has a "Christmas Classic" been shot in such harsh environs-no snowy hills or icy roads or Christmas trees here, much less Yuletide cheer-Ford manages to nonetheless include enough tie-ins to give this film status as a season standard.

Unaccompanied Minors
(2006)

Unaccompanied Minors
Youths without parents are stranded, as other adults, at an airport on Christmas Eve. Lewis Black operates the airport, stuck as others at the airport, robbed of his vacation, looking to keep the kids either at a nearby lodge or at the UM room (basically a dreary, concrete-floored cell), and out of his hair. That doesn't go according to plan as frequent flying tech geek, Charlie Goodfinch (Tyler James Williams, always fainting at the sight of Santa for some reason and seemingly emotionally attached to "womb-like" enclosed spaces), AV Club nerd, Spencer Davenport (Dyllan Christopher), quiet, "beefy" Timothy (Brett Kelly; Bad Santa), boarding school lonely "rich kid", Grace (Gia Mantegna), and "touchy" attitudinal, Donna (Quinn Shephard) decide to leave the UM room and traverse the airport, raking up restaurant and massage/therapy bills, driving security cruisers, and intruding upon a security equipment room. Once corralled and returned to the UM room, Spencer realizes his blond sister, Katherine (Dominique Saldaña), has been taken to the lodge, determined to get to her and leave behind something from Santa so she won't be disappointed. That's it in a nutshell as Black and his security staff loses the kids, finds them, loses them, etc. The airport is the main setting with the lodge a visitor to the film on occasion as Valerie is tormented by a stewardess' (Jessica Walter) daughter (her braces seem to be a visual cue that she's unbearable), "babysat" while getting her hair braided and face painted with an overt makeup job. Nothing special, this might end up being a nostalgia trip for millennials and its holiday spirit heart is in the right place, so that might help. Black has to keep his usual potty-mouth PG so he's more or less a punching bag for disgruntled lodge customers, luggage in the floor, and trips down snowy landscape in a kayak...he does get the Scrooge redemption treatment as Spencer realizes after a calmer conversation at the end that he isn't a Christmas guy because of family strife. Wilmer Valderrama plays his character completely absent any silliness, Black's oft-mistreated lackey, stuck with the kids, losing them as well. He does help them at the end to find Valerie and does assist in providing all those stuck at the airport with a nice bit of Christmas cheer once the stockroom keeping all the seasonal stuff put up are freed, decorating primarily one area to get some smiles from many left inside during Christmas Day. I will say, my kids loved the film, maybe because it was like an adventure for the main youths loose in the airport, evading Black and his white-suited security staff (which included Kids in the Hall alums, playing musical chairs in boredom, and Rob Riggle, going to his tried and true adult idiot routine, often tripping or fumbling instead of successfully proving his employment was just), who often prove time and again that airport security hiring practices should be revised and improved. The youths are appealing enough, although they cause a lot of unneeded trouble to Black and his team. Such melodrama includes the Davenports' mom, Valerie (Paget Brewster) freaking out at her sister's obsessively Christmassy home (Teri Garr) and father (Rob Cordrry), in his bio-fuel car in Pennsylvania, trying to reach the airport and having to deny his clean/green philosophy by driving a fossil fuel consuming Humvee after a disastrous explosion involving diesel. A lot of familiar faces include The Office castmates, Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak, Tony Hale of Veep as a lonely holdover customer who gets a present from Santa, and Kristen Wiig (who I somehow missed). Chase scenes, vent escapes, camera illusions, and baggage claim (poor Charlie in a suitcase, endures quite a trip, flipped, tossed, and bounced quite a bit while inside) adventures ensue. I think this is mostly forgettable, and ultimately the plot is really thin, with little surprises to be had. Black tries, man, he does. Probably very limited in the audience that it will appeal to. The young actors, to their credit, aren't without their charms. Little couplings develop during their night/early morning journeys in the airport.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
(2006)

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
A wonderful cast helps to really give the tired Santa Clause series a bump, as Martin Short (as Jack Frost, the "legendary figure" seeking to take Allen's spot as Santa) ably walks away nearly with the entire third film in the Disney Christmas franchise. Mitchell is pregnant and could deliver a baby at any given moment, wanting her family to be with her at Christmas. Short's Jack Frost desperately wants to be fulfilled, more or less always a nuisance or causing atmospheric mischief, told that if he doesn't learn something from an apprenticeship with Santa he's "out" as a part of the "legendary figure" council. So he gets to accompany Santa to the North Pole, plotting to take his place, while also scheming in ways to render the workshop a disaster. Mitchell wants some of Santa's attention, while her parents arrive thanks to Sandman's "sleep spell" believing the North Pole is "Canada, eh!" as well as Allen's ex-wife and psychologist husband (Wendy Crewson and Judge Reinhold), and their daughter (with snow globe obsession intact) in tow. Frost needs to get possession of a particular snow globe in a secret room full of extraordinary snow globes, eventually following Santa and Lucy (Liliana Mumy) to its location, even influencing Allen, unknowingly, into admitting he wish he'd never have been Ole Saint Nick, teleporting Allen and Short back to the time when the previous Santa "ended" at the beginning of the first Santa Clause. Short gets in the suit, secures the position of Santa and turns North Pole into an elaborate Disney like resort (oh, the capitalist irony). Ultimately, Allen, back in his businessman role twelve years after Frost is Santa, must get to the North Pole resort in order to reverse things. Frost as a showman, complete with musical number right out of Astaire or Kelly, was a hoot. This was wholly unnecessary sequel that certainly told us that perhaps whatever magic and charm could be left was finally exhausted. Short's devilish antics and the workshop mayhem he causes is fit for melodrama for the kids but adults will probably want to skip this sequel. Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret as Mitchell's grumpy anti-season parents factor into extra drama Allen must contend with. The brief alteration in Allen's past thanks to Short does give the film a unique detour but his recovering the role of Santa just seems a bit too contrived (probably excusable to those indiscernible viewers who aren't all that bothered by the silly plotting) and rather easy-peasy , all things considering. Disney shelled out plenty of budget for the film as the North Pole (when Allen is at the helm and Frost's resort later) is quite incredibly elaborate and detailed. Once again, the production spared no expense, but I wonder if besides the kids in attendance this third film was really worth the money spent. Allen remains for the most part in a jelly-belly suit, prosthetics and white beard and hair, only allowed out when he's ripped away from Santa thanks to Frost. Out of the three films, this one feels quite close in spirit to "Fred Claus". I think this is plotted towards kids only, for the exception of the included "Santa is neglecting Mrs. Claus" subplot, a drama that Frost means to exploit to the hilt. Arkin and Ann-Margaret don't quite leave as much of an impression as I had hoped although I did perk up when they were introduced. The Canada humor might work for some.

Ernest Saves Christmas
(1988)

Ernest Saves Christmas
Probably the best Ernest film featuring Jim Varney, mainly because it wisely features the lovable doofus during the Christmas season, complete with a retiring Santa, reindeer that leap from floor to roof at the postal warehouse, two elves arriving at the airport and eventually to accompany Ernest on a world trip (and around the world!), the sleigh and its "air brakes", and an actor often associated with the role of Santa looking to expand on his career through the aid of his encouraging agent (to star in a monster movie with gratuitous violence and foul language!). Oh, and you can't forget the red sack with its magic powers to provide gifts to all kids, falling into the unfortunate possession of Ernest and a teen runaway, Harmony (Noelle Parker), who has lost her belief in Santa. Ernest pulling wacky novelties out of the bag, forgetting the names of reindeer when he is needing to get the sleigh to Santa at a particular museum, his disastrous transportation of trees at the beginning of the film, his oddball array of disguises (yes, the old lady in a cast is among them, as is my favorite, a snake-handler, including a slick-haired administrative employee for the Governor), the chaotic trip to Vern's house (he's quite the party pooper, delivering a tree that wreaks havoc and pulling a electrical wire right out of the wall), and his flexy-face expressions (he mimics John Wayne and often goes into deep voice when "getting serious"), along with "witticisms" (he gets in the "ewwww", does his eyebrow and chin back and forth while quoting such gems as "the end of mankind as we know it"), are included for the character's major fans (for which I was one as a kid). I do think the final fifteen or so minutes, when Ernest is in charge of the sleigh and reindeer as the elves accompany him, is the film at its funniest. Noelle has good chemistry with Varney as does Douglas Seale (who perfectly twinkles, has just the right amount of cheery cheeked appeal, and just enough belly, at just the right age for a Santa needing to pass on the job to a fresh candidate) as the Santa needing to locate Oliver Clark's Joe Carruthers, hoping to convince him that he's to be the next in line for the role of Old Saint Nick. Gailard Sartain (with his pingpong eyes) and Bill Byrge (with his bird-still visage) as the postal workers on Christmas Eve complement the film's overall cheesy nature. Robert Lesser, as the driven agent desperate to get Joe to take the monster film series (who even has Seale imprisoned!), and the ultra sweet Billie Bird (if there is a bit for twinkle-eyed scene stealing old ladies she was one of the top of her profession at that time) round out the cast. Bird and Seale are a delight together. Santa not giving up on Harmony or Joe, Ernest, despite his best intentions often resulting in mayhem, corralling the reindeer and sleigh by film's end, and Joe deciding that bringing cheer to children was worth more than profitability in a film career are highlights. I admit that a lot of the appeal of this film is Varney's various facial expressions and off-the-cuff (seemingly) improvised zingers...Varney is an acquired taste, so there will be many who just think he's too silly to even bother with. And the film can get downright nonsensical...this, in my opinion, will divide those who love it and those who will just find it obnoxious. Probably not a Christmas classic in the minds of anyone but us Ernest fans.

The Shop Around the Corner
(1940)

The Shop Around the Corner
Lovely, heart-warming Christmastime classic, with a strong cast, appealing leads, and good seasonal, festive atmosphere. A gift shop in Budapest is the setting for this romantic melodrama featuring Jimmy Stewart as a sales clerk and Margaret Sullavan as a new hire under his tutelage, with the excellent Frank Morgan ("The Wizard of Oz") as the boss/owner. Stewart and Sullavan often butt heads in constant argument, not realizing that they are each other's anonymous "letter friends" (maybe pen pals is particularly more apt), while Morgan is worried about his wife's possible infidelity. Morgan believes his wife's lover is Stewart, since he has been to Morgan's home and met her. But it is actually the chatty, unflappable Joseph Schildkraut, who knows how brownnose and butter folks up, quite clever and manipulative. Unbeknownst to Morgan, Schildkraut has been getting the wife to funnel him cash, quite the Casanova. While the film spends almost all of its time at the shop, a decision director Lubitsch made to appeal to the middle class, its cast make the most of the intimate setting. Stewart, with his soft cadence and careful tone, "fights" with Sullavan but he's more reactionary when she draws some ire for confrontational jabs at his critique of her work and finds him frustrating for back and forth discussions, sometimes heated, in regards to sales and approach to customers, not to mention, stocking the shelves and such. I think it is more flirting than anything else; I think she can be a bit harsh, sometimes, but a lot of it stems from the long hours together and differences in opinion in the shop. The film gets particularly cute when Stewart discovers that Sullavan is the one he's been writing to and receiving letters from, trying to calm the stormy tides of their rocky relationship so he can potentially prepare her for the grand revelation at the end. Morgan is a delight at the shop owner who grows increasingly irritable and grouchy because of his wife's spending habits, eventually learning of her affair, even trying to end his own life. The gut-wrenching release of Stewart by Morgan is handled in an alarmingly professional, quiet, and melancholic manner...Stewart reading the release letter to his co-workers is especially depressing. It was as if a father and son were parting, considering that Stewart apprenticed under Morgan. The café scene where Stewart "interrupts" Sullvan's supposed meeting with her "dream date", as she does everything she can to shoo him away, including some harsh comments about him, expertly sets up the conclusion when Sullavan learns all. Stewart trying to describe her letter partner in a way that isn't particularly flattering is an amusing bit of sleight of hand that doesn't halt her from the dinner date, forcing him to come clean. Morgan out of a hospital, staying to recover from emotional distress after nearly shooting himself (William Tracy, as the "errand boy", certainly knows how to earn his stripes and eventually gain real entrance into the shop as a clerk when Stewart is promoted to Manager), returning to the shop to find quite a Christmas busy evening, is a pleasant hug for the viewer as he eventually sees life improving, even inviting a lonely kid working as the new errand boy for a Christmas supper. As a holiday film, "The Shop Around the Corner" fits the Christmas season quite well, even if many might grumble a bit about the commercialism of the setting. What I liked about Stewart was how he seems to have thick skin when some of Sullavan's cutting comments might ruffle more thin-skinned types...he is also only aggressive or lifts his voice to the very man that wronged his father figure. Despite Sullavan's meanness, from time to time, she still remains quite charming which should be noted. She is just looking for love, truly star-crossed by her fellow writer's gift for poetic style, and her desire to be a good saleswoman sort of brings out her assertive tit for tat opposite Stewart, who could be demanding. Felix Bressart, as Stewart's confidante, always tending to his family crises, is that employee at the store always loyal, there when you need him, offering friendly advice, and mindful of the importance to keep his job. When Stewart faces the dilemma of a job lost at such a time of the year, it is Bressart right there with him afterward.

The Bishop's Wife
(1947)

The Bishop's Wife
Wonderful Christmas film-considering its production history perhaps a miracle it turned out so well!-has a perfectly cast Cary Grant as an angel sent to help out a weary and tired (but good-hearted and means well, although he's up against a committee of wealthy donors such as the icy Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper, with a tone and delivery that cuts like a rugged edged knife) bishop, Henry Brougham (David Niven), and his patient, loyal, but frustrated wife, Julia (Loretta Young, such cherubic beauty and her performance, to me, is so good because it reveals sadness, loneliness, but love for a husband and dedication to him, with a smile that gives her whole presence life when Grant enters her family's life, a whole gamut of emotional range throughout the film). Yes, this is a spiritual film, which might put off some, but I still think fans of Grant won't want to miss this because his charisma, charm, movie star appeal is intact. My favorite scene has Grant's angel, and Young, visiting Monty Woolly's history professor at his flat, with Grant constantly filling his glass with port without his knowledge just with a point of his finger and Grant's "David, the angel in his mind, and the lion" storytime with the Brougham's daughter. The film is also full of nice little moments such as the hat Young desires and Grant, with just a face of disapproval, convinces a customer in the store it doesn't look right on her, Niven trapped in a chair at Hamilton's mansion after discussing her husband's face being added to a St. George statue in his likeness (!), Grant assisting the Bishop's daughter in a snowball toss, ice skating theatrics where Grant encourages Young to have some fun, a taxi ride that nearly ends in a head-on collision, maid Matilda (an underrated Elsa Lanchester) unable to not remain entranced with Grant anytime she sees him (her breath taken away by just seeing him!), Grant dictating to a typewriter Niven's sermon while the machine types away without fingers, Grant attending to a Christmas tree Lanchester was struggling with guiding hands as if orchestrating a composition, Grant harping a tune quite touching to an unexpected Mrs. Hamilton (her history about a love lost and a rich husband she only married for his money when Grant offers a sympathetic ear is such a beautiful treat!) which leads to her cold demeanor transforming to a warmth that wallops the Broughams, and Niven's troubled emotions as Grant's angel "disrupts" his life in ways that bother him while the impact on the community should revive his spirits. An angel's envy of the mortal in his charge, the bishop willing to "fight" for keeping his family, a professor's renewed interest in spirituality while his "broken down writer's block" is "lifted", and Grant's entire presence in the lives of those associated with the bishop "brainwiped" serve as dramatic highpoints. Not the usual kind of Grant vehicle, but he nonetheless leaves quite the impression.

Laramie: Fall into Darkness
(1962)
Episode 28, Season 3

Laramie - Fall Into Darkness
Robert J Wilke's nasty piece of work, Bob Laird, is the highlight of this rather routinely plotted episode of "Laramie", as Slim Sherman (John Smith), along with Mrs. Cooper (Spring Byington) and Mike (Dennis Holmes), are riding through when interrupted by a little girl, Kathy (Gina Gillespie), needing their help. Her mother, Norma (Jean Byron), fell into a well and is underpinned by wood, often slipping in and out of consciousness. It gets complicated as Laird leads a robbery raid on a Postal stage coach, killing one of the drivers, taking loot from it. Laird's company includes Ben and Jack Frances (Harry Lauter and Rayford Barnes). Ben has a family, Norma, his wife, Kathy, his daughter, while Jack has always been the "bad seed", always on the opposite end of the law. Ben, on the other hand, only went with Laird because Jack couldn't stay out of trouble, costing him financially. Eventually Norma and Kathy, while Ben was away to help secure loot with Laird and Jack, are kicked off the ranch/farm for failure of payment. It gets messy as Ben opposes Jack and Laird, while Slim just wants to help Norma out of the well. While Mrs. Cooper and the kids look on at all the infighting, disappointed that Ben would get involved with a man like Laird, Slim tries to coordinate a rescue. The loot is tossed in the well by Ben so that Laird can't have it, and eventually Slim descends after her. Laird's villainous antics are the highlights as he makes life miserable for all, including Jack, who sure chose the wrong man to go robbing stages with. Even when Ben has the gun and Laird is without, Laird knows how to manipulate the weakling, Jack, into getting the upper hand. Not a lot of gunfighting in this one, but plenty of fisticuffs and scuffling on the ground. Laird has that raspy voice, cold-blooded, devil-may-care attitude about shooting anyone-including an elder lady and kids-in order to have his loot. When Slim goes after Laird, and finds Jack collapsed with a gunshot in the back, that tells you all you need to know about the importance of the loot to that scoundrel. Ben's "dalliance with the darkside" before redemption is a common western trope, and certainly a literary milestone that never fails no matter the genre, or medium, whether film or television. But the plot works itself out all predictable-like. The addition of the well rescue does complement the "fight for the loot" central plotline. The swamp drowning is a nice substitute for the oft-used final gunfight showdown.

Death Valley Days: The Melancholy Gun
(1963)
Episode 26, Season 11

Death Valley Days - The Melancholy Gun
Johnny Ringo (Ken Scott) arrives in an Arizona town, immediately encountering a young rascal, Vince (Robert Bolger), putting his hands on a beautiful woman, Myra (Elizabeth MacRae) in a saloon, itching to draw on a legend for the reputation. Myra tells Ringo that Vice killed a "saddle tramp" who arrived in town and that taste of blood and notoriety provides that itch to kill again. Vince talks tough but Ringo isn't some saddle tramp and he socks him in the saloon, embarrassing him, later firing a warning into the kid's shoulder, a clean wound that doesn't do any irreparable harm. The episode is more philosophical and focuses on Ringo's troubled soul, the trail of death behind him, and Myra's interest in him. Myra tries to figure out what makes him tick, as does the town doc (Denver Pyle; Uncle Jesse of "The Dukes of Hazzard"), with Hamlet often quoted-by Doc, incorrectly, with the college-educated, Ringo, having to educate him on the right Act and Scene. "Something about the eyes" is often brought up when Myra or Doc try to understand Ringo, that he isn't what an infamous gunslinger often looks like. Ringo gives Vince chance after chance, eventually shaking him to the core as he threatens with his Colt .45 and fires warning shots to prove a point, teach him a lesson. Meanwhile a nasty robber and killer named Jacoby (Gregg Palmer) rides into town with a partner to rob Wells Fargo, as Ringo informs the sheriff (Harry Lauter) that he has a disease, a sickness to kill. Later when holed up in a cave outside of town, Jacoby proves how distasteful he is when he mocks the shocked face of a young security guard at the bank he shot, who eventually dies to Ringo. Ringo makes sure he gets a bellyful when Jacoby goes to draw. The 30 minute episode spends less time on gunfights and more on Ringo kvetching about his reputation and the life left behind tragically when he was just Ringold. The "hole full of emptiness" talk with Myra and Hamlet dialogue with Doc are truly what the episode cares more about...giving Ringo character, a soul, a person that isn't defined by how fast he can pull his Colt from the holster than someone else challenging him.While this is very dialogue heavy, this is still very much a western so the gunfights make sure to remind us that Ringo is very quick on the draw.

Monster House
(2006)

Monster House
Three kids, on Halloween Eve and Day, must dry and destroy a misanthropic grumpy neighbor's 45 year old house or it will continue to "eat" anyone or thing (animals like a neighborhood dog don't fare well either) that intrudes upon its yard or porch! Victims include a boozy high school punk named Bones, two keystone cops who never take the kids seriously, and the aforementioned pooch that happens upon the grass. While the human characters favor claymation design, the real animated effects star of the feature is the titular monster who wooden boards favor ragged, sharp teeth, windows sinister Amityville eyes, and carpet a rolled out red tongue! Eventually by the end of the film, in the impressive climatic action sequence, giant trees are the house's arms and hands as the monster moves its way after the kids...hoping to use dynamite to blow it up, the kids will also commandeer a ground excavator to combat the menace. Perhaps the best sequence comes when the kids are trapped inside a police car as the house tries to gobble it up after tree limbs lift it off the ground, along with their peril and escape from its inside, locating the concrete grave of the owner's carnival obese wife, often a victim of egging and ridicule. Good use of Halloween as the neighborhood prepares for trick-or-treating. The two boys crushing on the visiting prep school girl and her tolerating their typical kids-being-kids antics, often embarrassing themselves and her, has its charms. Fun babysitter humor with Maggie Gyllenhaal voicing a goth who dates Bones and has a contentious relationship with star lead kid, DJ. Buschemi, voicing the misunderstood elderly neighbor who eventually tells the backstory of wife, Constance, is perfect casting. Probably the only time you'll see a house vomit kids.

The Rifleman: The Young Englishman
(1958)
Episode 13, Season 1

The Rifleman - The Young Englishman
Lucas and his boy realize that one of their calves is missing when the mama and newborn accidentally wanders into the herd of a Lord from England being outfitted by a crooked, no-good foreman and his equally repellent crew (including a young James Coburn). The foreman, Waggoner (Ted de Corsia, a total black hat with no shades of grey), damn near gleefully takes the calf into the herd, without weighing the ramifications even as Lucas (righteous but nonetheless imposing Connors) emerges, taking a whip crack to the face and barely flinching from his irritating stance that he took his calf and will soon test to see if he's right. Of course Lucas maybe shouldn't have allowed his son to tag along when returning to Waggoner's herd with mama cow in hand to see where the calf might be, sure enough locating it when the newborn suckles her teat for milk. Waggoner and his goons soon try to corner and execute him when they realize the rustling has been discovered. The Lord's brother, Ashford (Allen Case), sent to monitor the operations and machinations by Waggoner, keeping inventory and accounting, is forced to accept Waggoner's methods because he is practically powerless to stop him considering he is but a moneyman, not a citizen of the US or owner of the cattle. Waggoner knows that and even goes as far as slap Ashmore across the face at one point when confronted over his rustling! In this episode, Coburn, still not yet the Hollywood star he soon would become, plays second to de Corsia, who isn't bothered by conscience or reason, just taking what isn't his boss', not concerned with the fallout...until he meets his reckoning in the form of Lucas McCain. Young Mark (Johnny Crawford) inadvertently becomes involved as does Ashford when they see that Waggoner and his men are opening fire on Lucas. Ashford eventually does have to truly square with Waggoner, giving Lucas enough time through the distraction (although Lucas is distracted by the danger his son faces) to get a fair chance against three guns firing at him. Coburn was always good as the cool heel, not overstepping or going too over the top while de Corsia is just a stone-cold heavy with no redeeming qualities. The use of the mother cow to find the calf by Lucas once again proves how resourceful and clever he is, and the message at the end when Lucas talks to Mark about using the rifle as a weapon only when there is no other choice was important in letting the audience know that despite being successful in the shootout he didn't want things to escalate to that point. And despite Ashford's alliance to Waggoner, it was nice to see Lucas encouraging him to become a part of the cattle-community, not dissuading him from hanging around if he decided to. There was even a brief scene where Lucas gives his son a little educational lesson when visiting Ashford's office, noticing all the British artifacts from England...Mark was wowed by the suit of armor, particularly. The western plots of shows like "The Rifleman" weren't exactly sophisticated or overtly complex because there were just so many of them so casting and certain elements of formula paramount to the audiences watching them at the time being satisfied remained important. This show always got those right.

The Rifleman: The Angry Gun
(1958)
Episode 12, Season 1

The Rifleman - The Angry Gun
While returning home via stagecoach after a successful sale of herd, Lucas and his boy are riding with a cocksure braggart, arrested and handcuffed to a marshal. Soon the crook's gun-toting associates interrupt a brief stop for rest and water, shooting the marshal, freeing him, taking Lucas' cash and loot on the stagecoach. He also takes Lucas' rifle, a big no-no. Lucas sends his son with the coach and injured marshal, pursuing the taken cash and money. Mainly a fun guest vehicle for Vic Morrow, as the confident, grinning, assured heel, quite aware Conners is coming after him, clearly looking for a gunfight. Leo Gordon wishes Morrow would take him seriously while Walcott is dispatched early when left to try and disrupt the determined Conners. The use of an avalanche and a brilliant strategy involving a plank of wood with a hole just big enough for a pistol handle and a little stick for measuring distance allow Lucas to get the better of his quarry. Morrow's teasing and jawing leaves him the perfect candidate to get a good comeuppance. Clearly Conners didn't want this to resort to violence and such but they went too far. Always good use of hot desert environs to emphasize the conditions of the old west and how treacherous territory can be a nuisance to both straight and crooked folks on both sides of the moral fence.

D.A.R.Y.L.
(1985)

D.A.R.Y.L.
Wonderful sci-fi family film, one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I'm shocked I've never seen this considering I'm an 80s kid! I watched this with my son, who loved it as well. It really has three chapters. The first is a kid with AI, part human/part robot, named D.A.R.Y.L. (Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform), found in the woods after a scientist partially responsible for his "birth" (later explained to have been "developed in a test tube in a lab") leaves him before military's "dark forces" drive him off a cliff. He has no recollection of who he is and yet retains the ability to talk, receive information, store his experiences as if recording data in a computer (which is his brain), and through everything he learns (and does so immediately) evolves. He is relocated to a foster family (construction supervisor, Michael McKean, and, piano instructor, Mary Beth Hurt), adapting to his surroundings and feeling actual emotions, including love for his new family and best buddy, Turtle (Danny Corkill). Before long, though, those who "made" him eventually find him. Claiming to be his parents, scientists Dr. Stewart (Josef Sommer) and Dr. Lamb (Kathryn Walker) are actually among the staff that created Daryl, retrieve him from disappointed McKean and Hurt (as the Richardsons). The second chapter is Daryl in the Pentagon as Stewart and Lamb remain astonished at the abilities to function within a human environment and actually acclimate so well. But General Graycliffe (Ron Frazier) tells Stewart that the military/government aren't interested in a boy robot who can function impressively with a family, opting for Daryl's destruction, favoring a killing machine who is an adult. So Stewart and Lamb collaborate to set him free so that someone valuable as Daryl (not considered just some machine to be obliterated because a general feels he isn't important anymore) can have an actual life, seeing him as more than just a device to be done away with. And the third chapter has Stewart and Lamb tricking the general, with Stewart narrowly escaping with Daryl before Graycliffe can stop him. So Graycliffe, a bevy of police, all point bulletin, and the military seek to catch Stewart and Daryl, or kill them if necessary, as they hope to eventually get away.

While I had a hard time believing Graycliffe would want to just dispose of Daryl, who proves to be incredible and elusive, it does give us a great adventure, with a thrilling car chase that spills into an interstate full of high speed pursuits and crashes. And this is a rare chance to see Sommer as a hero, risking (and ultimately and tragically giving) his life to keep Daryl safe...so often Sommer is the one who would be at the forefront in disposing of Daryl but he actually sacrifices his career and all to keep him out of harm's way until he can no longer protect him. Daryl taking a stealth plane and fooling the military at the end might seem quite far-fetched, I personally nonetheless found it to be a ton of fun! The early scenes with McKean (given a rare dramatic part that has very little need for his particular brand of comedy chops) and Hurt (who feels like Daryl is the parent, instead of her, until Turtle convinces Daryl that he shouldn't be altogether perfect and make mistakes on occasion) play a more conventional family drama with the big baseball game (Daryl hits some homeruns until he listens to Turtle and purposely strikes out), a key videogame excursion in Turtle's sister's room (Amy Linker) where Daryl proves to be quite adept at car racing that later comes in handy when he drives as Sommer tenses up in the passenger seat, piano training, and Daryl's bonding with his surrogate family and friends. There is a visit allowed for the Richardsons and Turtle to visit Daryl at the Pentagon, as we later learn from Dr. Stewart and Lamb that their doctor colleague had damaged a memory portion of Daryl's microcomputer brain so he wouldn't know he was part AI. Once again, the military are portrayed as sinister and downright cold-blooded.

The performances of the main cast-including Barret Oliver of "The Neverending Story"-are solid and the happy ending means more because of Sommer's sacrifice (never thought I would be teary-eyed as he was fading into oblivion). It is hard to believe this same Sommer who is out to kill young Haas in the same year in "Witness".

Ghostbusters II
(1989)

Ghostbusters II
Okay sequel has use of the Statue of Liberty to help get NYC get out of their pitiful slump, having to come together if they want to save themselves from Evil Incarnate, a god immortalized in a painting, given power by negative energy slime growing underneath the streets.

Meatballs III: Summer Job
(1986)

Meatballs III: Summer Job
Dempsy portrays Makepeace's character from the first film while Kellerman is a dead pornstar given a chance by her maker to star in a big production in Heaven if she can get Dempsey laid. Dempsey, meanwhile, has problems with his biker marina employer, jock locals constantly bullying him, trying to brush aside his reservations towards sex even as Kellerman's angel tries everything she can to help, a local teen who is romantically interested in him without his returning the favor, and a Hells Angels type of local gang his boss belongs to. Kellerman's supernatural abilities (levitating items and hurling folks around) are effects to appeal to fans of the sex comedy while clueless Dempsey is a far cry from McDreamy of Grey's Anatomy, although he wasn't long until "Can't Buy Me Love" where his role in that film is similar to "Meatballs III". Softcore icon, Shannon Tweed, has a minor part as Dempsey's employer's supposed wife, but this turns out not to be as perceived. The running joke throughout the film is that anyone who tries to bed Tweed is tossed out of the brute's house, often right through a wall or roof. The absence of a camp in favor of a marina left much to be desired to me. I think the comedy is hit or miss, mostly miss for me, although I loved Kellerman...still quite sexy in the film, much more than many of the other ladies treated as such.

The Addams Family: Morticia and the Psychiatrist
(1964)
Episode 2, Season 1

The Addams Family - Morticia and the Psychiatrist
Gomez, Morticia, and Fester are mortified when they discover that Pugsley is wearing a boy scout's uniform, is out playing baseball, and has taken to a pet dog! Yes, he has abandoned feeding his pet octopus, blowing up trains/sets with his father, playing down in the torture chamber of horrors (Fester takes Gomez to task for spoiling Pugsley too soon with a battle axe!), and avoiding his daily trips to the mineshaft! What else can they do when one of Pugsley's favorite bedtime stories, Poe's The Raven (!), read to him by Morticia in the hopes that she "gets her son back" but look in the phone book pages for a psychologist?! This is very much classic formula "Addams Family" with the psychiatrist, Dr. Harold Black (George Petrie) believing one thing while the Addams are oblivious to his naiveté regarding their lifestyle and different understanding to what is "normal" than him. Black advises them to "encourage" Pugsley's newfound interests in the hopes that it eventually leads him back to the way he was prior to this "change". Eventually Black arrives at the mansion at Morticia's urging, hoping firsthand that face-to-face conversation can help motivate Pugsley towards returning to his normal self...wearing a werewolf mask and barking at the moon. Black believing that the typical macabre Addams mansion décor and how the family dresses everyday is part of the therapy to urge Pugsley's change in interest is essential to the episode's main punchline...what is normal for the Addams' Family is quite the opposite for someone like Black, who actually believes that a giant stuffed bear near the stairs, a giant moose with antlers on the wall, or even the two-headed turtle and statues of villainy throughout the manor are temporary shock devices hoping to help their son not what they actually are: intentioned items meant as interior design for the house on purpose. Morticia unable to barely stomach that her son wants to "play catch" or coddle with a poodle as Gomez helplessly dotters about looking for a solution that seems elusive is part of the enjoyment...it is the direct reverse reaction of how any other family would respond, which is why this series worked so well. I can't say I necessarily ever laughed out loud but the dialogue and absurdity of what the Addams consider troubling in Pugsley's change in behavior, especially Morticia, who I just love to pieces, pleased that dark sense of humor I have. Other memorable scenes involve Lurch lifting up Pugsley to bring him inside, Black getting back story from Pugsley regarding his unique childhood which includes a bomb that seems to go off as evidence of the peculiar upbringing, Morticia feeding her monster plant (Cleopatra!), and a look into the dungeon with torture chamber devices and tools.

The Addams Family: The Addams Family Goes to School
(1964)
Episode 1, Season 1

The Addams Family Goes to School
Fun Pilot introduces the bizarre family of the title as a representative of the local school, Mr. Hilliard, a truant officer, arrives to question why Gomez and Morticia's two children, Wednesday and Pugsley, aren't going. Gomez, not ready to let the kids go, all involved in his exploding train set, and Morticia, tending to her moonlight-deprived hemlock (while trimming her flowers in the greenhouse, one of which can reach and grab you around the neck!), debate sending the kids to school, soon needing to discuss the hideous use of violence towards the witch in Hansel and Gretel (!) and the dragon's death thanks to the knight in shining armor with Hilliard. The beauty of this series is how cheerful and giddy Gomez and Morticia are about what many consider terrifying and sinister. And the decadent mansion and estate, with its swordfish with a leg sticking out of its mouth on the wall, a bear rug that roars, statues of devils, ghouls, and armored villainy, is as much a character as the grim-voiced, towering Lurch, bald-headed, raccoon-eyed Fester, omniscient hand Thing, and frizzle-haired, witchy Grandmama. Wednesday gives the nervy Hilliard a tour of the mansion (as well as the viewer), as he tries to avoid a dart-throwing Fester and Grandmama, fear of Lurch's elongated arms possibly carrying him to his doom if he says the wrong thing, and near suffocation at the grabby wine of Morticia's plant in her peculiar greenhouse. Allyn Joslyn, as the increasingly terrified Hilliard, finds himself seemingly unable to get away from this family, assuring them that he would try to keep Grimm's Fairytales from ruining the children of the school! Lurch's paddling away at the harpsichord as Morticia moves her demure and sexy figure to a tune while Gomez soon flicks the top of his head in order to get the right melody to take to his own type of romantic dance soon cradling his wife is a highlight as is Fester lighting a light bulb by merely sticking it in his mouth and moving his eyebrows. Thing snatching the mail from an astonished postal worker, soon showing up throughout the house either from its box or a flower pot proves to be quite a character as well, even nabbing Hilliard who attempts to escape his chair. Gomez' crazy eyes, Morticia's pitter-patter feet in that long black dress that hugs her petite body, Fester and his crackling vocals, Grandmama's nutty disposition, Wednesday's sweet face and voice despite certainly remaining very much an Addams, and Pugley who looks nothing like either Gomez or Morticia but nonetheless fit for the last name, Addams, all make up quite a rogue's gallery perfectly fit for a Gothic Horror Comedy. The little asides often shared by the Addams, quite normal to them while others might be mortified-such as how Gomez and Morticia discuss the use of voodoo to immobilize someone they consider troublesome-are part of the black as pitch humor, the macabre existing within a world that would otherwise react often in puzzlement or naiveté. The clashing of the macabre and the family wearing it like comfortable clothes and the outside world that is nothing like them (and yet encounters them throughout the series) is the ongoing recipe of success this series relishes. The cast, snapping their fingers to the memorable, iconic theme, are an absolute treat. The laugh track is my main gripe...it can't manipulate me into laughing out loud to Hilliard tripping over concrete moss.

Highway Patrol: Fake Cop
(1957)
Episode 34, Season 2

Highway Patrol - Fake Cop
A con artist robbery team commits clever ruse operations where one of their group poses as a Highway Patrolman in order to trick those being held up, such as a bank manager, grocery clerk, and service station attendant. Ed Beale (Barry O'Hara), the disguised Highway Patrolman, and stickup man, George (Billy Nelson), essentially take orders from raven-haired Lorna (Cynthia Leighton), coordinating jobs where she cases joints posing as customers. Lorna encourages those robbed to hesitate slightly while her husband gets some distance, soon retrieving Ed to help the victims-or so they believe-before all three eventually get away with the loot from each robbed location. As each victim realizes that their comfort in Ed, the cop, is a charade, the cases start to accumulate, with Chief Matthews (Crawford) and his team of Highway Patrolmen hoping to orchestrate a trap to eventually nab the trio. The key to the demise of the ruse is the area for which the trio operates, failing to work outside a designated triangulation, allowing Matthews and his team to strategize a plan to eventually halt travel routes back to where they live. The best scene, to me, is the grocery store where the clerk actually undermines the much older George, scuffling successfully with him until he gets the gun away, with a worried Lorna going outside to grab Ed in order to fake arrest her husband and covertly grab the bag of cash! Matthews pinning them down after the third hold up of the episode gets a little too cute (George gets away in his car while Ed and Lorna follow after him) proves that no matter how clever the heists might be, eventually going to the well one too many times can get you caught. Still I found Lorna being the mastermind and strategist of the heists a nicely intriguing twist considering the time of when the series aired on television. I thought this was a lot of fun and gave Matthews a great challenge. Matthews pulling off the sticker from the door and wadding it up after the trio gave him a lot of headache mimicking highway patrols was a fine addendum to the story.

Highway Patrol: The Sniper
(1957)
Episode 7, Season 3

Highway Patrol - The Sniper
Damn good episode of "Highway Patrol" has a cunning sociopath committing strategic sniper shootings (just vandalism for a stretch, shooting into cars as they drive by, positioning himself in the bushes so he would not be seen), eventually taking out a morally upright local farmer with a headshot-this sequence is startlingly cold-blooded and onscreen, absent blood and brain matter, of course-starting an investigation by Crawford and his Highway Patrol. The investigative trajectory of where the sniper shoots other cars as opposed to the murder victim, a shoe impression linked to a specific work boot found at a goods-and-feed store, and shell casings from a particular rifle (this weapon left at the little farmhouse of a recently-released felon, to set him up) all factor into the case. The exciting finale is built up by a revelation behind why the victim was killed and an ex-con was set up..it includes a failed attempted marriage and potential inheritance. The planted gun, and a later retrieved rifle hidden for use when needed or so it wouldn't be found, not to mention the killer's car and boot purchase eventually implicating him, leads to Crawford and his patrol officer accompanying him having to set a trap to lure him into an open stance. This plot moves quite fast and is over before you know it...a lot is crammed into this one!

"Oh, do me a favor? Don't miss."

Dragnet 1967: S.I.U.: The Ring
(1969)
Episode 3, Season 4

Dragnet - S.I.U. The Ring
"In my job, I meet a lot of losers. I carry a badge." Not exactly one of my personal favorite Dragnet 1969 episodes, but there is still a lot of attention to detail, especially when it concerns the history of the races in California. The episode focuses on Friday and Gannon assisting the Special Investigative Unit, receiving information from informant, "Black Ten" (Lawrence Levin), a sketchy undercover type who gives police details with financial exchange upon delivery. A jade ring, diamonds, and a fancy dog collar were stolen from a wealthy widow's home, and it seems that the victim's dog kennel had someone inside using her address (and knowing she was going out of town to San Francisco), with knowledge of where folks hide their expensive jewelry, to burglarize her. Black Ten gives Friday and Gannon information on Al Baylor (Anthony Eisley), even drawing them a sketch of the jade ring, describing it, not asking for anything in return, cluing in the detectives that he has a special interest in this crook being arrested. A swinger's club, a hostess in cahoots with Baylor (a bartender there), and a pretty, fresh-out-of-the-academy undercover recruit looking to get experience in the field (Stephanie Shayne) all factor in to the results of the investigation. Gannon uncomfortable with Friday asking him if Shayne's cop fits the bill of the three things he needs for the role of "date" to the club-pretty, young, and looking nice out of uniform-is amusing. A piranha fish tank even finds its way into the uncovering of taken jewelry...Al boasts that if Friday and Gannon had searched it by hand, the fish would have torn it apart to the bone. Louise Lorimer, as the victim, gets a lesson in how thieves operate, feeling like no matter what she tried to do to hide her precious items, it almost impossible to keep them safe unless she takes precautions such as a safe and a safeguard on her glass door.

Dragnet 1967: Burglary: Mister
(1969)
Episode 5, Season 4

Dragnet - Burglary - Mister
Mister Daniel Lumis is perhaps the most detestable outside of Ponzi Schemists, and serial killers. He's a real piece of work and never have I wanted Joe Friday and Bill Gannon to find more than Mister Daniel Lumis (his demand to be called Mister before his name and Friday telling him he should get used to a prison number is very satisfying). Lumis completely cleaned out the house of a second wife's blind grandmother (!!!) to sell and pawn to fund his desire for luxuries (he even tells Friday and Gannon specifically luxuries, *not* for necessities), left with his mother's funeral funds (!!!), fled from his first wife after learning she was pregnant (!!!), and stole from a bowling alley manager who bailed him out of jail! This guy is not only an immoral jerk but he uses his intellect and smooth talking to con folks and use them because he considers himself superior and deserved of the items he illegally confiscates! Friday and Gannon interview each victim, and as the case builds, I can't imagine few viewers won't want to see them catch this dirtbag, interrogate him, and make sure he does hard time for his despicable actions. Judson as Lumis isn't in the episode until the end but the way he flippantly expects to finish a bowling game while Friday and Gannon show up to clearly arrest him tells you all you need to know about this pondscum. Judson's explanation of everything, and the way he conducts himself, when Friday tells him he's about to go to jail I think most will feel it couldn't have happened to a more rightfully deserved candidate. My favorite scene in the episode (besides how the blind grandmother describes him as the devil you would find under a rock) has the bowling manager (Jack Sheldon, whose delivery of his lines and the lines themselves just cracked me up) describing Lumis and some other guy who abused his trusting nature, descriptively painting a picture of these folks with colorful details. The dialogue scene when Friday and Gannon visit a current victim and her mother, it is just heartbreaking and tragic...particularly because the mother questions why he would have been interested in her plain, ordinary, not exactly beautiful daughter! To say Lumis gets what is coming to him is an understatement!

Dragnet 1967: Homicide: DR-22
(1969)
Episode 14, Season 3

Dragnet - Homicide 1969
Burt Mustin is a real treat as a hotel manager, Calvin Lampe, who offers (more like "imposes") detective tips and reasoning to Sgt Joe Friday and his partner, Bill Gannon, as they investigate the murder of a tenant, hog-tied, gagged, with ceramic pieces all over her face to indicate the fatal blow to the head was from a vase of some sort. This whole episode, titled "Homicide", is particularly amusing as you see the frustrations and annoyances on the face of Friday and Gannon as Lampe points at pieces of evidence, imparting his wisdom, seemingly from detective books (!!!), revealing an incredibly sharp mind for a 91-retiree. A hand print of Lampe's and a missing page to a letter meant for the victim's parents seem to indicate the manager might be the most likely suspect, but soon details emerge regarding other prints found at the scene of the crime, perfume opened, a jewelry box that was black being stolen, a glass of water found, and eyewitness possibilities that might prove to have three others more suitable for the crime. Mustin's cocksure dissection of the crime scene and his own account of the victim are something that must be seen to be truly appreciated. Friday and Gannon obviously bothered by Lampe's questions about their investigation and full survey of everything, giving his advice and advising without request is hilarious. This episode is a lot of fun if you enjoy the way this show works. I know Mustin from The Twilight Zone. The reaction of the forensics specialist, particularly when fingerprinting, to Lampe who continues to advise him on the process is probably my favorite scene. But Webb always cracks me up with somebody he encounters during a case irritates his Joe Friday.

Sharp Objects: Ripe
(2018)
Episode 4, Season 1

Sharp Objects - Ripe
Always good for picking up my spirits, "Sharp Objects" gave us another dandy pick-me-up with "Ripe". Yep, Mama Adora tells her daughter, Camille, she smelled ripe. Adora threatens Chief Vickery's job if he pushes too hard on her daughters (one is "dangerous", the other "in danger") and requests her Calhoun Day (a long Wind Gap tradition, set up for the community on the grounds of Alan and Adora's grounds) be cancelled because the killer taking out girls hasn't been caught. Adora doesn't take Alan seriously when he brings it up to her that he lost a daughter, too, not just her. Lots of domestic bliss in this family. Every since, solitary time Camille arrives home and encounters Adora she is reminded of her difficulties as a child, of how she is just a disappointment. Camille might get an apology from Amma for being a prick the other evening when hanging with Detective Willis but Adora ever coming to her with an "I'm sorry" isn't likely. Speaking of Willis, he desperately wants to share information with Chief Vickery but this contentious relationship won't be an easy case marriage despite some co-existence. Vickery simply seems disinterested in involving Willis in anything he does while trying to find the killer. Willis, on the other hand, is trying to secure anything he can from Camille, promising to share with Vickery. Camille and Willis go to a popular hangout in the woods, a shed with dirty pornographic pictures stuck on the walls, reminding her of past experiences there with local boys (Willis seems to learn from an elusive Camille that she was on the receiving end of possible rape). Camille moves Richard's hand into her unzipped pants to pleasure her so they have become a bit cozy with each other after a lot of sexual tension and evasive maneuvers to avoid discussing the murders in town. And Camille joins some of the ladies in town (including Perkins' Jackie, kind of a blunt, sarcastic acid-tongued local who joins in the chorus regarding the suspects involved in the murder of the girls), absent Adora who claims her rose-bushes "hand injury" will be keeping her from the gathering, as they gossip about town.

Adams and Clarkson do deservedly claim a majority of the accolades for their acting work, but Scanlen is a real find as the manipulative Amma. Amma cuts on a rap song and hugs her mom. Amma gathers with her friends as they giggle about John Keane, eyeing a fixed picture mocking him. Amma is nowhere to be found when Camille arrives after learning that she was friends with the murdered girls (hanging out with them at the shed) when speaking to John at the local watering hole. Amma with her friends portrays women of war in a theatrical play as the goofoff guys in her class fail to take the work seriously...she seems "interested" in their teacher's melancholy, holding his hand and wanting to offer someone to talk to (or perhaps more?). Amma, seemingly naughty and promiscuous, knows how to also convince her mother she's a doll and a teacher she's a "friend". Camille is the damaged sister she can both poke fun at and be close to. It does seem Amma weaves a grand play using those in her orbit as characters to move about like pieces on a chessboard. I have no doubt she'll be the one who proclaims, Checkmate.

This show is dreary and glum. So it won't be an appetite all viewers will consider palatable. But it is damn well acted and the director knows how to light the mood for every single scene. And why would such a dark story and stark characters be lit with bright colors...the dark reds and auburns, yellows and greens, are the kind of palate this material seems meant for. The Soderbergh atmospheric effect. Characters half-lit, distanced emotionally from each other, an undercurrent of deep-seething torment and rage...the production/direction colors this appropriately.

A Discovery of Witches: Episode #1.2
(2018)
Episode 2, Season 1

A Discovery of Witches - Second Episode
The second episode (I really wish there were actual titles for their episodes) elaborates on how Diana's "relationship" with the book, Astamole 782, continues to draw vampires and alchemists to her. It seems this book very well could have the origins of vampires and even tell them if witches were responsible for their creation. Knox wants to verify if the book will allow him to "uncreate" vampires, in order to render them extinct, often accompanied by a powerful witch he brought into the fold in the previous episode, Satu (Malin Buska). Satu tries to "read" Diana and fails. When Knox "gets inside" Diana's head she is able to free him from her mind through an "elemental spell". So already we can see she's powerful and would be even moreso if she decided to embrace her inner witch. Meanwhile, Matthew leaves Oxford for the lodging with a very affluent Londoner currently in the countryside who just so happens to be a dear friend...and demon...named Hamish (Greg McHugh). Matthew has "the craving", yearning to feed from Diana, which is why he has fled for his buddy's lodging. In order to satiate his overwhelming bloodlust, Hamish takes him into the breathtakingly idyllic countryside to feed from an enormous antlered deer. So you have Knox and Matthew both vying for the book's contents, to the point of obsession. So Diana's welfare is in question because of that book. As you might expect the episode also indicates the growing attraction between vampire Matthew and agnostic witch Diana...Matthew shows her evidence of a power-loss due to the absence of usage. Not only that, though, is the abilities that they do have are waning. The desire to not adhere to who you are has resulted in the loss of those unique characteristics that separate vampires and witches from humans. Like vampires ability to sire humans. Witches can't necessarily spellcast with great alchemical effect.

Juliet (Elarica Johnson) is introduced in the beginning, unable to resist her allure for Matthieu (Freddie Thorp), a visiting tourist from France. She draws him to her, seducing him into a little public sex, before taking a bite...and then feeding him to death. Her father, a powerful vampire named Gerbert D'Aurillac (Trevor Eve), is visited by a detective, Domenico (Gregg Chillin), after he "smells" Juliet on the corpse of Matthieu in the morgue. Not sure yet what this all means to the ongoing Knox/Matthew/Diana series arc but I assume it all ties together.

In this episode Diana feels betrayed by her friend, Gillian, because she is aligned with Knox. Knox tries to befriend Diana so he can gain possession of the book, or at least learn of its contents. Diana feels threatened by him, particularly offended at his desire to kill vampires until they are no more. Gillian shares a similar dislike/distaste for vampires. So you can see the prejudice that exists between vampires and witches. If witches created the very species they now despise, that is quite the irony. Knox seems emboldened to make up for his ancestors' "mistake". Matthew, on the other hand, seems emboldened to help strengthen his species before they are merely...ugh...human.

Attractive cast. Attractive locations. Attractive production. Very similar in ways to The Vampire Diaries, though, except this cast is older but still obviously handsome. I have to admit that Palmer is a reason I remain invested in it. The plot is not too overtly complicated which might be nice for some audiences. It's not hard to watch, especially when the camera gives us so many closeups of Palmer.

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