Shakespeare in Film – Part 9 – Henry V – Branagh’s 1989 Version

Sunday, I wrote the review of Olivier’s Henry V.  I watched Branagh’s version that night.  I watched a while ago but I wanted to have it fresh in my mind especially because I would be contrasting it to Olivier’s film.

When Branagh’s movie came out in 1989 it made him a star.  He was a young dynamic character and the world wanted to believe in heroes again.  He was married at the time to Emma Thompson and she played Katherine to his Henry.  They were seen as an exciting couple in Hollywood circles and there was great interest in their films together.  Putting all that aside, people were ready to take a fresh look at Shakespeare.  Branagh adapted the play for the screen and directed himself in the lead.  Branagh was young enough and active enough to make King Harry believable.  The movie was a critical success.

Interestingly, Branagh’s Henry V left in some of the smaller incidents that Olivier omitted.  The three conspirators who planned to assassinate Henry on behalf of the French are duly exposed and condemned.  The hanging of Bardolph, one of Prince Harry’s former companions is a stark reminder that King Henry is a changed man.

But the major thrust of the film of course runs in the same vein as Olivier’s.  And yet there are clear differences in tone and emphasis.  Despite the theme of war Olivier’s play is the more light hearted and optimistic of the two by far.  A good point of comparison is the St Crispin’s Day speech.  When Olivier gives the speech, he exudes confidence and a controlled enthusiasm.  But when Branagh speaks he impresses on the audience the sense of passion and energy he feels.  It’s a rush of adrenaline that he captures in words.

And the action of the play mirrors this same difference.  Olivier’s cinema is typical of what the 1940s would do to portray the late middle ages.  It reminds you of how Hollywood would give us Robin Hood or Ivanhoe.  It was a sunlit world of grassy fields and picturesque castles with banners flapping in the breeze high above the fields.  Branagh gives us explosions, fire, battles in the dead of night and lots and lots of mud.  Mud on the ground, mud on the soldiers and mud on the King.  And he keeps some of the lines on the war that Olivier left out.  When the English besiege the city of Harfleur, Henry harangues the town elders with the horrors that resisting the besiegers would entail if they failed to surrender in advance.  He mentions rape, plunder and the vicious destruction of human life from the youngest infant to the oldest inhabitants.  So, we can see that Branagh has made the more accurate version of the play.  He’s left all the warts in plain sight.

Now in addition to the grittier nature of Branagh’s production it should be said that his handling of the romance between Henry and Katherine is also more naturalistic.  Branagh has an earthier, more openly comical approach to Henry attempting to woo Katherine in terribly halting French.  Olivier’s approach is calmer and more restrained.  So, all in all let’s call Olivier’s a more formal and austere approach to the story and Branagh’s a more naturalistic and emotional version.

How do they compare?  In my opinion they are both excellent films.  And they have different strengths.  I watch the Olivier version when I want to enjoy Olivier’s language.  He is the gold standard, in my book, for what Shakespeare’s dialog should sound like.  No one else makes the text sound real the way he does.

But if I want to see the story of the war, I will watch Branagh’s version.  Branagh and his excellent cast bring the war to life.  By the end of the battle of Agincourt you can feel the exhaustion that the English feel as they struggle to bury their dead.  Even the miraculous victory they’ve won is almost beyond their strength to grasp.  Branagh has done a very fine job of making a Henry V that is faithful to the text and conveys the reality of a King going to war in the Hundred Years War.

Shakespeare in Film – Part 8 – Henry V – Olivier’s 1944 Version

Another Olivier film in which he starred and directed.  He also was one of the producers and had a part in the screenplay.  Shakespeare’s plot revolves around young King Henry (or Harry to his friends) defending his claim to the throne of France.  His Norman ancestors shared lineage with the French kings and here Henry is demanding from the French king that he be named his successor.  But the Dauphin (the king’s son and heir) answers for his father by sending an insulting “gift” to substitute for Henry’s claim.  He sends him a box of tennis balls.  That starts the war.

The action is divided between Henry’s prosecution of the war, scenes among the French leaders and several personal vignettes.  One set of vignettes involve Henry’s former companions; Ancient Pistol, Bardolph, Nim, Mistress Quickly and Sir John Falstaff.  In his youth Henry was an irresponsible wastrel that associated with these disreputable characters.  But these knaves were very popular from two earlier plays, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and here they are brought back for a final curtain call.  Their actions are for comic relief and as a contrast to the heroics of Henry and his warriors.  Then there are scenes with the three captains Fluellen, MacMorris, and Jamy from respectively Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.  These three men speak in heavily accented dialects reflecting their ethnicities.  They are also provided for comic relief with mockery of MacMorris being the primary focus.  And finally, there is the scene of Princess Katherine and her Duenna talking about King Harry in a scene where the Princess attempts to learn a few words of English seemingly in anticipation of meeting Henry.

The story’s climax is the momentous battle of Agincourt where according to Shakespeare’s reckoning an army of 12,000 Englishmen, mostly infantry and archers, defeated an army of 60,000 Frenchmen that included a large contingent of heavy cavalry.  After the English victory we have a scene where the French King agrees to make Henry his heir in exchange for Henry’s marriage to Princess Katherine.  And this is completed with Henry winning Katherine’s heart in a scene that is meant to signify his passionate and determined nature.

So how does Olivier handle this complicated and fragmented plot?  After all, some scenes take place in a palace, some in an inn but others are in the middle of a pitched battle and others in a bivouac.  In Shakespeare’s day, in his little circular theater, interior scene changes were hard enough but battle scenes could only be handled by suspension of disbelief and by heralds arriving to announce distant action.  Olivier pays homage to this by starting the play in the Globe Theater.  We see the actors behind the scene dressing and preparing to enter the stage.  Even Olivier as Henry is shown first as an actor about to enter his first scene.  The following scene at the inn between Ancient Pistol and company are also handled as scenes in the theater.

But once the action moves afield, we get exterior shots of the English and French countryside (actually Irish, this was shot right before D-Day and England was on a war footing while neutral Ireland was not).  And it’s outdoors that Olivier gets to give the rousing St. Crispin’s Day speech.  And the big battle includes an actual cavalry charge.  After the battle they use a strange combination of exterior shots with painted backgrounds that are sort of picturesque in conjuring up a theater.  And a theater is where the finale happens, right back in the Globe Theater where the Narrator closes the curtain on Henry and Katherine and reads the epilogue.

So, how did I like this mess?  Well, actually, quite a lot.  I can’t help but admire the way Olivier takes the conventions of a Shakespeare play like the exits and entrances of the cast and makes them part of an internal joke by showing the cast as actors going onto a stage.  He even takes the speech that explains his claim to the throne and makes it a comic scene with bishops and clergymen dropping and finally throwing ancient manuscripts at each other in their confusion at trying to prove Henry is the legitimate King of France.  To a modern audience the base and crude friends of ancient Pistol seem strange and exotic but Olivier has his Globe audience filled with Pistol’s spiritual kinsmen who cheer and catcall in approval of their low antics.

By modern standards the battle scenes are somewhat theatrical.  After you’ve seen elves and men mowing down orcs in one of the Lord of the Rings movies the knights on horseback can’t be very convincing.  And Olivier is no Errol Flynn swashbuckling with a sword.  But what Olivier has is the ability to take Shakespeare’s lines and turn them into dramatic speech.  I think the fact that Olivier had done Shakespeare on the stage with the best English actors of his generation was what gave him the ability to give the words the inflection and cadence that turns them from a museum piece into a dramatic scene.  I’ve seen the St. Crispin’s Day speech done by Branagh and Olivier.  Branagh gives it all the intensity and emotion he can.  Olivier is calmer and quieter but he infuses his speech with the storyteller’s charm of what it will be like to look back at a victory from the vantage point of many years.  Maybe my admiration of his skills is idiosyncratic to me.  But even though he is an actor from an earlier time I do not think our modern method actors can compare.  They always reach for emotional affect and seem to overdo it.

Henry V is a special play in Shakespeare’s list.  Everything but the epilogue is a reflection of the will and fortune of a fortunate king.  All his ventures succeed and his reign is fortunate.  Only the epilogue reminds us that the War of the Roses is yet to revive in his son’s time and erase all his glories and end the English sovereignty on the mainland.  But the play gives the audience a chance to hear of victory as a contrast to the tragedies that will follow.  Olivier made his production as a morale boost for the English who were about to join the Americans in the D-Day invasion of France.  The story of an earlier invasion of France by Henry was supposed to provide hope for the nation worn out by years of bombing raids and setbacks in the war.  And so, Olivier omitted the defeats from the epilogue.  Wise decision.

This version is dated in terms of cinematography and stylized in some aspects of the acting but I recommend it to those who enjoy Shakespeare’s plays.

 

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Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 27 – The Alternative Factor

I want to start by stating, unequivocally, that this episode is easily the worst episode so far in the series.  It’s as if they forgot to order a story and then just had one of the stage hands write it at the last minute.  It’s really that bad.

The Enterprise is near an uninhabited planet when suddenly a huge surge of energy followed by a “winking out of mass from the nearby planet tells Spock that some sort of rift in time-space has occurred.  And after it occurs the sensors pick up a life form on the planet and Spock and Kirk beam down to find out what it is.

They find a man running around on some desert mountains screaming about a monster that has killed off his world.  He falls off the cliff and is brought back to the Enterprise to receive medical attention and to be questioned on the strange phenomena associated with his presence.

When he comes to the man whose name is Lazarus tells Kirk that he is chasing after a monster in the likeness of a man that destroyed his world.  He goes on and on about it and acts pretty crazy.  Kirk agrees to go down to the planet with Lazarus and search for the monster.  While on the planet Lazarus claims to see the monster and goes running into the hills looking for him.   While this is going on some really cheesy special effects occur that are supposed to reflect the meeting up of two universes; one matter and one anti-matter.  Basically, an image of the trifid nebula is shown superimposed over a negative image of Lazarus fighting with someone.  It’s remarkably bad.  Eventually Lazarus shows up again and warns Kirk of a large rock falling down the mountain and then Lazarus falls down the mountain again.  Remarkably he survives again and once again is dragged back to the Enterprise to be patched up and interrogated.

When Lazarus hears that the Enterprise has dilithium crystals he demands to be given some of them to allow him to recharge his ship and find his enemy.  After being refused we see Lazarus stealing the crystals in the engineering department. When Kirk locates Lazarus, he denies that he stole the crystals and claims the monster stole them.  In the next scene Lazarus starts a fire in engineering as a diversion and steals more crystals then beams down to the planet.

Now Kirk is really ticked off so he beams down to the planet and finds Lazarus installing the crystals in his ship but just as Kirk reached the open ship he is transported into the other universe.  There he meets the monster.  It’s an identical version of Lazarus except he isn’t a raving lunatic.  This anti-matter version of Lazarus explains that he stole the first dilithium crystals and he plans to trap Lazarus in an interdimensional chamber that connects the universes but once they are there together, he intends to seal off both exits and remain trapped with his insane twin for “all time.”  By doing this he will save both universes from being destroyed by the matter/anti-matter annihilation that would occur if the two Lazari met in one universe.

Kirk agrees to the plan and goes back to the crazy Lazarus and after a truly pathetic excuse for a wrestling match throws Lazarus through the portal.  They go back to the Enterprise and Spock declares that everything is back to normal and both universes are safe.  Kirk ends off by saying, “yes for you and me, but what of Lazarus, what of Lazarus?  Imagine being trapped for all eternity with a madman at your throat.”

What can I say?  The plot stinks, the dialog stinks and it looks like they shot the whole thing in a couple of hours.  The best part of the episode is when Kirk speaks to the sane Lazarus and he explains in two minutes what the whole mish mash of a show is supposed to mean.  If only he could have met up with him at the beginning of the show, we could have skipped the whole thing and saved forty minutes that could have been better spent cleaning the dust off my computer monitor.  As for the Shatner mockery let’s say the “what of Lazarus” thing and the wrestling match were pretty mockable the best I can do for this whole thing is 2 // 6.  It should be avoided by all except Star Trek aficionados.

 

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Ex Machina – A Science Fiction Movie Review

This British production follows the story of Caleb Smith, a programmer working for Blue Book which is a Google-like company headed by a reclusive genius named Nathan Bateman.  Nathan has summoned Caleb to perform a Turing test on his female robot Ava.  A Turing test is the concept of an artificial intelligence passing itself off as human to an observer.  Ava has a human face, hands and feet attached to a body that is mostly mechanical.  Caleb quickly becomes emotionally attached to the robot and loses all objectivity for his job.  Nathan is a volatile, domineering personality who quickly bursts out into rage when anything goes against his plans.  Caleb slowly becomes convinced that Nathan is a kind of monster.

The story takes place in the claustrophobic “home” that Nathan has built in a remote mountain estate that can only be reached by helicopter.  We quickly see that nothing is at it seems.  Nathan is not trying to get Caleb’s opinion on Ava, he’s studying their interaction.  In this story we see that each of the corners of the triangle is manipulating the other two.  Caleb slowly finds out the dark details of Nathan’s project to produce artificial humans and I guess we’re supposed to sympathize with Ava and despise Nathan.  But it’s a funny thing.  By the end of the movie I feel the opposite.  Maybe it’s because I’m so tired of Alexa, my GPS and all the other annoying female artificial voices now filling our world.  I was rooting for Nathan.  I wanted him to shut down Ava and build a male robot that would just do its job and not complain.  After all, in the world we live in 99.999% of humanity are just wage slaves who toil away for the better part of our waking lives.

I was relieved to discover that there at least wouldn’t be any robot human sex scenes but there was some nudity involving an ancillary character.  Camera Girl chided me for watching robot sex movies.  Well this was worse than that.  It was sort of a robot revenge chick flick.  Female empowerment movies are really not my bag.  And female robot empowerment movies even less so.  I’m giving this thing a thumbs down.  If you are less sensitive about this sort of thing you might enjoy this movie but although some facets of the movie were interesting all in all I’d give it a pass.

 

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Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 26 – Errand of Mercy

Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet Organia to attempt to convince the inhabitants that they need to permit the Federation to

Defend their planet against the Klingons.  The Enterprise destroys an attacking Klingon ship but Kirk gives Sulu orders to retreat and bring the Federation fleet if a Klingon fleet appears.  And that is exactly what happens.  Now Kirk and Spock are trapped on the planet as a Klingon army occupies the town.  The Organians are completely non-violent and completely unconcerned by Kirk’s dire description of what life under a Klingon occupation would entail.  But they are anxious to protect Kirk and Spock and disguise them to prevent them being killed as Federation agents.

The Klingon Commander attempts to intimidate the Organians but is aggravated by their placid and agreeable manner.  It becomes apparent that both Kirk and Kor despise the Organians for their passivity and what they think is lack of courage.  Kirk and Spock begin guerrilla operations against the Klingons but they are quickly discovered and the Organians reveal their identities to forestall the Klingons using their mind sifter on the two officers to learn the truth.  Apparently, the mind sifter would also destroy their minds in the process of reading them.  Kor brings Kirk into his office and congratulates Kirk for his legendary exploits as the Enterprise’s captain.  He gives Kirk the chance to reveal information on the Star Fleet’s location.  But does not begrudge Kirk his resistance but merely tells him that he and Spock will be destroyed the following day under the action of the mind sifter.

While Kirk and Spock anticipate their fate suddenly the head Organian, Ayelborne, opens their cell door and offers them escape.  Confused but with no other choice they follow him.  After another futile attempt at convincing the Organians to resist the occupation, Kirk and Spock return to the Klingon headquarters with the plan of kidnapping Kor to force the Klingons to stop the mass killings until the Federation fleet can arrive.

When they break in on Kor in his office he seems unafraid and he reveals that his office contains a surveillance camera and immediately four Klingons enter with weapons drawn.  Kirk and Spock aim at the Klingons but simultaneously both the Klingons and the Federation officers fling their weapons away as if they were red hot.  Immediately following, we shift the scene to the Enterprise bridge where Sulu is preparing to give orders for the Federation fleet to fire on the Klingon fleet.  But simultaneously all the crew jump out of their seats as if they were in pain.

The Organians enter the office and reveal to both sides that they are not backward villagers but highly advanced beings who have outgrown the need for material bodies.  These advanced beings inform the Klingons and Kirk and Spock that they will not permit the war.  The Organians announce that on both Klingon and Earth an image of himself is announcing to both sides that they will not be permitted to go to war.  Both Kirk and Kor are highly incensed that the Organians would dare to interfere with their war.  Finally, Kor laments to Kirk that it is a pity it was prevented because it would have been a glorious war.

Back on the Enterprise Kirk feels embarrassed at how bloodthirsty he acted in front of the Organians.  Spock defends him saying that there is no shame in being less advanced than a race with a million years more evolution than humans possess.

This episode’s story is simple but reasonably well done.  Also, the dialog between Kirk and Spock has several funny exchanges.  When Kirk asks Spock how likely they are to succeed in their attempt to kidnap Kor, Spock replies that it is hard to be precise but he calculated the odds as 7,429.7 to 1.  Kirk reflected for a second and asks if he didn’t think that was close enough and Spock replies that he always endeavors to be precise.   On the merits I’ll give it a 7.

On the Shatner mockery scale there is much to enjoy here beyond the usual shoulder rolls and grunting.  When Kirk is explaining to the Organians the danger of being conquered by the Klingons, Shatner’s inflection is almost identical to the way it was parodied so wonderfully by Kevin Polack in his classic imitation of Shatner.  For that reason, I give this episode a 7 // 8.

Kung Fu Hustle – A Movie Review

I’m not normally a martial arts movie afficionado but an old friend was staying at “The Compound” and he took advantage of a Netflix account to watch quite a few of them.  One of those films was a movie from 2004 called Kung Fu Hustle and because of the fantasy aspects of the film I decided I could stretch a definition and do a review here.

First of all, this movie is in Chinese with subtitles.  As far as a genre I guess you could call it a martial arts fantasy comedy.  So, if any of those categories aren’t for you then you should skip this movie.  Stephen Chow is the producer, director, writer and star.

It is 1930’s Shanghai.  Chow plays Sing, a young man who has become disillusioned with the world because of his attempt as a child to defend a poor mute girl named Fong from some bullies.  He tried  using the Buddhist Palm fighting style that he had learned by reading a pamphlet that he bought from a beggar.  But he was beaten badly and because of this experience when he grows up he decides to turn to a life of crime.  He attempts to shake down some poor people by telling them he is part of the dreaded Axe Gang that rules the city through violence and terror.  When the peasants beat him up instead, he signals for the real Axe Gang and an epic battle ensues between the scores of Axe gangsters and the poor people of Pig Sty Alley.  As it turns out three of the peasants are coincidentally kung fu masters.  Behind their leadership the peasants defeat the gang.

Now Sum, the leader of the gang captures Sing and promises to kill him after the gang war is completed for causing such a terrible rout of his men.  But by some mysterious skill Sing escapes.  Meanwhile Sum hires two magical harp players.  Apparently, their music generates flying knives and using these they kill the three kung fu masters.  Now we meet up with two of the comic characters of Pig Sty Alley, the Landlord and his shrewish wife.  They also turn out to be kung fu masters and they avenge the slain men and defeat the harpists.

Meanwhile Sum decides that Sing can be a valuable tool because of his abilities as an escape artist.  He hires him to free a man called the Beast from an insane asylum.  He does this and, of course, the Beast is a kung fu master and a dangerous lunatic.  He attacks the Landlord and Landlady and fights them to a draw.  Sum orders Sing to help the Beast kill the husband and wife but Sing has a change of heart and attacks the Beast.  The Beast pummels the young man to a pulp and the Landlord flees with his wife and Sing’s unconscious body.

Somehow the tremendous beating triggers some kind of magical transformation in Sing and he not only completely regenerates but acquires the skills of, you guessed it, a Buddhist Palm kung fu master!  He squares off against the entire Axe Gang and the Beast.  After a titanic battle that involves flying through the sky and invisible forces that can knock down buildings, he defeats the Beast who then begs to be allowed to be Sing’s pupil.  Finally, in the last scene Sing meets up with Fong who is now an ice cream seller and I guess they live happily ever after.

You’ll probably say this is a ridiculous plot and it is.  But the action scenes are very well done, the comedy is funny and the story keeps your attention.  The martial arts scenes are somewhat reminiscent of the choreographed fight scenes in the Matrix.  If you aren’t completely opposed to a movie in this genre then I’d highly recommend you give this one a look.

Looper – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Looper is a 2012 time-travel film noir starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis both as a character named Joe.  The premise of the movie is that in the year 2074, time travel has been invented but it is illegal.  It is used by criminals to dispose of people by sending them thirty years into the past where killers called loopers execute them in exchange for bars of silver.  The kicker is that thirty years later the loopers are sent back into the past to be executed by their younger selves.  This is called closing the loop and once the looper kills his older-self he is retired with a golden payday and heads off to enjoy his money in peace for thirty years.  I know, this is a seriously goofy plot device.

Young Joe is a lost soul with a drug habit and little else.  At one point he attempts to help his friend Seth, a fellow looper, whose older-self escapes killing.  He hides Seth in his apartment.  But when their boss Abe, played by Jeff Daniels, tells Joe that the choice is betraying Seth or losing half of his silver stash, Joe gives up Seth who is killed in a fiendishly painful way.

And of course, a similar thing happens to Joe.  His older-self shows up to be killed but eludes Joe and thus it becomes a three-way search with Young Joe looking for his older-self and the gang looking for both of them.  Into the middle of this is thrown a young woman named Sara, played by Emily Blunt, and her young son Cid.  Young Joe shows up at her farmhouse because he has information that Old Joe is planning to kill the boy.  Old Joe has information that leads him to believe that the boy will grow up to be a ruthless killer that will lead to the death of Old Joe’s wife.  I won’t give away the ending because it’s well done and if you decide to see the movie it would spoil it.

From the point of view of science fiction, the plot has got more holes in it than swiss cheese.  Using time travel to get rid of bodies?  That’s the best use they could come up with?  This story is really a character driven noir.  Joe, in both of his manifestations, is a damaged human being who late in the game discovers his humanity.  The improbable plot allows his characters to exhibit the best and worst traits in their personalities and his interaction with Sara and Cid allows him to finally look beyond his harried, meaningless existence and do something right.

By the illogic of the scenario, this movie may not appeal to somescience fiction fans with higher expectations for time travel story consistency.  But as a story it has merits.  Gordon-Levitt is his usual sympathetic persona.  Interestingly they used makeup  to try to make him look a little bit more like Bruce Willis.  It is a little distracting, but not much.  Bruce Willis is, of course, Bruce Willis and is most himself when he is pouring automatic weapons fire into his surroundings which he does with great abandon.  But he does okay.  The supporting cast is good and the few special effects are good enough.  I’ll recommend this movie.  It’s not great but it’s good.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 25 – The Devil in the Dark

The Enterprise is summoned to a mining planet that is experiencing a series of killings.  Some sort of underground monster is killing the men by means of a highly corrosive chemical that eats away the body leaving just some ashes.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy lead the investigation.  Administrator Vanderberg explains that a few months ago the miners opened up a new level and shortly afterwards the attacks began.  While listening to his story Spock noticed a spherical silver mineral specimen on Vanderberg’s desk and asks him about it.  Vanderberg tells him that thousands of these nodules were discovered on the new level.

Spock theorizes that the monster may be a silicon-based lifeform and advises that a more powerful phaser weapon be used to attack the creature.  When Spock discovers that the creature is the only one of its kind in the area, he states that destroying it would be a crime against science.  Kirk states that killing the creature is the only choice available.

After several more deaths the creature steals the circulation pump for the colony nuclear reactor.  Emergency repairs by Scotty allow a temporary reprieve but very shortly the colony will need to evacuate or suffer a meltdown.  Finally, Kirk and Spock find the creature and wound it with their phasers.  Eventually they corner it and seeing that the creature seems intelligent Kirk changes his mind about killing it and lets Spock mind meld with it to find out where it has hidden the pump and why it is attacking the colonists.

Meanwhile Kirk summons McCoy to heal the badly wounded creature.  When Kirk orders him to help the creature, McCoy makes one of his trademark statements, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!”  Spock performs his mind meld and discovers that the Horta is a peaceful creature.  It is the only one around because every fifty thousand years all the Hortas but one die off and the remaining one guards the eggs and serves as mother to a whole generation of Hortas.  When the miners opened the new level, they unconcernedly destroyed thousands of the silicon nodules which, of course, are the Horta’s eggs.  The angry colonists calm down once they realize that they were the original aggressors and can find a way to live and let live with the Hortas.  But Spock reminds them that all this may be moot because the Horta is badly wounded.  Suddenly McCoy speaks up and says that the Horta will survive.  He had the Enterprise beam down a hundred pounds of thermo-concrete and he troweled it on the wound and it will form a bandage until the Horta heals.  He becomes so excited he yells out, “Why I can cure rainy day!”

As the Enterprise is preparing to depart the planet, we hear from Vanderberg that the baby Hortas are hatching out and they are providing the miners with tunnels to help them find minerals more quickly.  So, everybody’s happy.

This episode has a lot of things going on.  There is some interesting interaction between Kirk and Spock.  Spock exhibits human emotion when he thinks Kirk is in danger.  In fact, in a radio exchange during a cave in Spock calls him Jim, which doesn’t sound very Vulcan.  The story is definitely interesting although the secret of the silicon nodules is fairly transparent.  Bones, of course has the best lines in the episode.  But there is a dark side.  During his mind meld with the Horta Spock takes on the voice and facial expressions of an hysterical woman.  The weeping and agonizing are awful to have to watch.

My rating.  As a show the grade is 8!  Shatner mocking isn’t a thing here but for this episode I’ll substitute mockery of Spock.  The mind meld is awful and deserves a 9.  Total score 8 // 9.

 

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Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 24 – This Side of Paradise

This episode is unique in that for the majority of the episode Spock reacts like a normal emotional human.

The Enterprise is sent to a recently colonized planet to confirm that the colonists have succumbed to the effects of deadly Berthold rays, which apparently are very bad.  But when they arrive, they find the colonists very much alive and in perfect health.  McCoy discovers that not only are they healthy but show remarkable signs of regeneration such as self-repaired lung damage and regrown organs that had been surgically removed.  In addition, one of the colonists, Leila (played by the very attractive Jill Ireland) is an acquaintance of Spock’s.  She had been in love with him when she knew him previously though he never reciprocated the feeling.  She asks Spock to go see some plant life that was important to the investigation into why the colonists had survived.  When she brings him into a field, she points to a flower shaped like a lily and when Spock approaches it, a puff of pollen blows into his face.  After exhibiting pain from the exposure, suddenly Spock began behaving as a human expressing happiness to see Leila.  He kisses her and they talk about how the plant spores protect the colonists from the Berthold rays.  And Spock agrees to stay with Leila and live on the planet.

Meanwhile Kirk has been telling the colony leader Elias Sandoval (played by talented character actor Frank Overton) that the Enterprise will be evacuating all the colonists to a nearby star base.  Sandoval placidly refuses.  When Kirk attempts to call Spock on his communicator, at first, no one answers.  This is when we cut back to Spock sitting with his head in Leila’s lap watching the clouds in the sky and acting like a man in love.  Finally, he answers the call and tells Kirk that he isn’t leaving the planet and to stop bothering him.

Kirk and several crewmen search for Spock.  When they find him, he’s swinging on a tree branch and smiling like a man without a care in the world.  When Kirk demands an explanation, he brings them to one of the lilies and all the crewmen except Kirk are sprayed with spores and begin acting like Spock.  Eventually everyone but Kirk are controlled by the spores and begin to transport down to the planet from the Enterprise.  Kirk is basically in despair because without his crew he cannot even leave the star system with the Enterprise.  Finally, a lily that is on board the ship sprays spores onto Kirk’s face and he becomes like the others.  He calls Spock and tells him that he will be joining them soon on the surface of the planet.  Kirk goes to his cabin and collects his effects (which he packs into a very recognizable samsonite carrying case) but as he is looking at one of his Star Fleet medals, he becomes angry and this has the effect of shaking off the control by the spores.  Kirk then dictates a captain’s log to let us know that his plan is to lure Spock back onto the Enterprise in order to get him angry enough to escape the control of the spores.  He adds that considering the much greater strength of a Vulcan he is taking a dangerous risk by angering the very emotional Spock.  And that’s what he does.  He calls Spock a half-breed and a traitor out of a race of traitors.  Spock flips out and throws Kirk around the transporter room.  Bu the plan works and Spock overcomes the spore control and assumes his normal Vulcan persona.  Together Spock and Kirk rig a subsonic noise that irritates the colonists and crewmen and they all start fighting and then come to their senses.  Leila says a sorrowful goodbye to Spock and everyone heads up to the Enterprise.  On board Kirk asks Spock to describe his experience and he replies, “I’ve little to say about it Captain, except that for the first time in my life, I was happy.”

This was a pretty good episode.  Let’s call it a 7.  As far as mockery, there were some pretty good payoffs.  When Kirk is throwing off the control of the spores, he is hunched over in a pose that I guess is supposed to be towering rage.  It looks more like constipation.  During his baiting of Spock, he taunts him in a voice that is more whiny petulance than anger.  And perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the whole episode is the awful southern accent that Doctor McCoy affects when he is controlled by the spores.  He blathers on about mint juleps and other inane things.  Terrible.

So, I’ll call this a 7 // 6.

The Professionals – A Movie Review

Here’s a western made in 1966 that reflected the later anti-hero story line that Clint Eastwood mined so successfully in his spaghetti westerns.  The big names are Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin.  They are former mercenaries who have ridden with Pancho Villa but now are selling their services to a Texan (played by Ralph Bellamy) whose wife has been kidnapped by an old bandit ally of theirs.  This bandit, Jesus Raza, played by Jack Palance is over the border in Mexico with a small army of followers in a heavily defended camp.  Marvin adds two more men to his crew with Robert Ryan and Woody Strode.  Together they devise a scheme to disrupt the camp, rescue the woman and outwit and outfight Raza’s army.  Claudia Cardinale plays the kidnapped wife and in addition to being a capable actress she shows why she is remembered as one of the most attractive actresses of her time.  She is a fine-looking babe.

The script is tight and the dialog is apt with each of the main characters given the words that fit the part.  Marvin is the cool efficient tactician and leader.  Lancaster is the fearless daredevil who lightheartedly plunks dynamite at his enemies while firing off jokes and insults at everyone around him.  Ryan and Strode ably fulfill their parts but with less dialog.  And at the end of the main action Lancaster and Palance get to discuss life and love as they prepare for their strange duel.

The plot has a surprising twist and plenty of action and is in my opinion, one of the better westerns from its era.  Marvin and Lancaster have good chemistry and have been placed in a production that uses their particular talents to excellent effect.  If you’re a fan of the western genre this movie delivers the goods.  Highly recommended.