The Great Man (1956) – A Movie Review

Jose Ferrer directs and stars in this drama about the manufactured quality of mass media celebrity.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Jose Ferrer plays Joe Harris, a reporter who covers the entertainment beat for a local New York City newspaper, radio and television network.  When Herb Fuller, the network’s leading broadcaster dies in an automobile accident Harris is dragged into the story to provide a reverential eulogy of the beloved broadcaster during the extended network coverage of his funeral.

Dean Jagger plays Philip Carleton the head of the network.  Carleton dangles Fuller’s vacant network shows in front of Harris as an incentive for him to dazzle the audience with a masterful hagiography of “the great man.”  Sid Moore (played by Keenan Wynn) was Fuller’s producer and he’s responsible for lining up Fuller’s associates for Harris to interview in the few days left before the broadcast.  But aware that Harris is being groomed for Fuller’s old spot Moore is suspicious of Harris’s motives, surly toward him and quickly berates Harris for overstepping his place in the network hierarchy.

As Harris begins interviewing people, he realizes that there is an inverse relationship between how well people knew Fuller and how well they liked him.  People who only knew him from his broadcasts revered him as a good man and as almost a member of the family.  But the people who knew him most intimately revealed him to be an awful human being.  He was an abusive alcoholic.  His wife only stayed married to him to avoid scandal.  He was an indiscriminate womanizer who tossed away girls as soon as he became tired of them but expected them to always be available to him if he was bored or lonely.

His first job in radio was for a small radio station in Worcester Massachusetts owned by a religious man named Paul Beaseley (played by Ed Wynn) who was hoodwinked by Fuller’s incredible eloquence about his supposed spirituality.  Eventually he revealed himself to Beasley as a completely phony opportunist who preyed on people’s better natures.  But Harris also discovers that Fuller was a powerfully gifted writer and actor whose powers of persuasion and charm could win over any audience that didn’t happen to know him personally.

In one of the most powerful scenes Harris listens to one of Fuller’s most masterful broadcasts.  Ostensibly Fuller was in a forward line battleground at the German front in World War II and he was reporting on the American soldiers wounded and dying.  And he was describing an American soldier on a rude operating table in a barn having his leg amputated.  Fuller is describing the need for blood for these wounded men and starts berating, practically shouting at the American public for not immediately beating a path to their local hospital to donate blood for the cause.

Harris is powerfully moved by this recording and thinks he finally sees a humanity in Fuller.  But later on, Moore tells him the truth.  Fuller never got out to the battlefields.  He spent the trip in a drunken debauch in Paris where he was arrested in a brothel.  Moore went himself to the front to get the recordings and Fuller merely recorded his monologue over that background later on.

While this is going on Carleton reveals to Harris that there is corporate intrigue that involves forcing Moore away from the future of the shows that Harris may be given.  Harris is disgusted with both Carleton and Moore and almost everyone else he’s come in contact with on this story.

Finally, the night of the broadcast Harris is preparing to give the eulogy along with all the glowing tributes he’s recorded from those that didn’t really know Fuller or who would benefit from maintaining the myth about him.  But he stops.  Unable to stomach the lies, he tells the audience the truth.  He begins to relate the facts that he has discovered about the real Herb Fuller.  Back in the executive office Moore and Carleton are listening to the broadcast.  When Harris begins spilling the beans, Moore calls up the control room to cut Harris off.  But Carleton stops him.  Harris is about to become a symbol of crusading integrity and the network can utilize that to jumpstart their new star reporter’s career.  Carleton knows that advertising time can be sold with Fuller as either a sinner or a saint.  The story will come out.

I had never seen this movie before.  I’m glad I have.  This is a very well-made drama.  Jose Ferrer is a very good actor.  It seems he’s a pretty good director too.  The story is intriguing and the cast is full of good performances.  The one that stands out for me is Ed Wynn as the New England radio station owner.  His small-town sincerity is such a contrast to the cynicism and phoniness of the New York media crowd that it is almost shocking.  When we read the first broadcast that Fuller wrote for him and measure it against the values that are on display from the rest of the characters, we can feel Harris’s embarrassment at having treated this good-hearted man with faint mockery at his provincial manner.  Like him, maybe we feel a twinge of remorse that our lives have become coarsened too.  We feel a sadness that the world is really more Fuller’s world and not the better place it should be.

Anyway, I recommend this movie.  It has a good story to tell and it does it well.

It Came from Outer Space (1953) – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I won’t put in the typical spoiler alert because it just doesn’t matter.

In this movie an amateur astronomer, John Putnam, happens to be out in his backyard in what looks like Arizona, looking through his telescope when what appears to be a meteor hurtles to earth in his vicinity.  Being a man of action, John gets his friend Frank to helicopter him to the scene of the crash.  And of course, he brings along his girlfriend Ellen.

When they get to the crater John goes down to the “meteor” and finds that it is a spacecraft with something alive in it.  But somehow the ship causes a landslide that covers itself up.  From this point on John attempts to convince everyone that he isn’t crazy when he claims there is a ship from outer space in the crater.

Only Ellen believes him and they go around town trying to convince the sheriff and the scientists from the local college.  Eventually the aliens start kidnapping humans and replacing them with look-alikes.  But because these aliens are so boring people start suspecting something is wrong.   And here is where we meet the biggest “star” in the cast.  One of the kidnapped humans is George played by Russell Johnson, better known to the world as the “Professor” on Gilligan’s Island.  Johnson plays his part with all the acting skill that he would later demonstrate on that famous island.  Amazing.

Anyway, eventually the rest of the town figures out that John knows what he is talking about and under the leadership of Sheriff Matt Warren they organize a posse to go and put the smackdown on these aliens.  But by this point John has finally located one of the aliens and gotten their side of the story.

Apparently, the aliens crashed to Earth and have been attempting ever since to repair their ship.  They’ve impersonated humans to obtain supplies for the repairs.  Apparently copper wire is an important part of faster than light technology.  The humans they captured have not been harmed and will be released if the aliens are able to repair the ship before the humans have a chance to interfere with them.

When John asks the alien why they don’t just come out in the open and meet the humans, he comes out of the cave he’s hiding in and reveals his appearance to John (1), (2).

Apparently, their appearance is so terrifying that John goes into hysterics for a few moments.  Personally, I think it would be more likely that most people would break out into laughter if the aliens showed up in town.  They sort of resemble what a giant Mr. Potato Head toy would look like if only one eye was stuck on where the nose should go and then asbestos was glued on as hair.  After his hissy fit John agrees to help the aliens escape by preventing Sheriff Matt from rousting them out of their cushy lair in the convenient old gold mine outside of town.

It is while John is trying to prevent the sheriff from attacking the aliens that Matt makes a speech which was the only part of the movie I remember from when I saw it fifty some-odd years ago.  Matt looks at the thermometer and says, “It’s ninety-two degrees!  I remember reading that more murders are committed at ninety-two degrees than any other temperature.  Below that temperature people are in their right minds.  Above ninety-two it’s too hot to do anything.  But at just ninety-two people get irritable!”  I really enjoyed that scene.  In fact, I enjoyed it more than the whole rest of the movie put together.

Anyway, the posse is rounded up and on the way to the mine they manage to kill one of the aliens driving a pickup truck.  It was a pretty nice truck.  John heads down into the mine first and one of the aliens disguised as Ellen tries to kill him with a laser wand.  But John manages to shoot her and she falls into a puddle in the mine.  Then John finds the leader of the aliens who is disguised as John(!) and talks himself into waiting before attacking the humans with his death ray.

John gets all of the hostages out of the mine and uses some handily placed dynamite to close up the mine entrance to prevent the posse from lynching the potato heads.  As the posse and the freed hostages watch the space ship breaks free of the earth and heads back into space.  And John tells us that one day they’ll return and human and potato heads will live in peace together.

Wow!  This movie was based on a story by Ray Bradbury.  I’ll have to go back and read that story.  If it really resembles the plot of this movie, I’ll have to rethink my appreciation of Bradbury.  Anyway, this is all harmless stuff from the early days of B-movie sci-fi.  I’ll recommend this thing as campy nostalgia from simpler times.  It would have made a good movie for a drive-in date.  Something you wouldn’t have minded missing during the clinches.  Your milage may vary.

Unexpected Consequences of Irresponsible Actions

Returning to the subject of yesterday’s post, I was considering what kind of effects might be caused by a country sabotaging the valuable infrastructure of a country with which it was not in a state of war.  What immediately came to mind was reciprocation.  Currently a new pipeline is going into operation from Norway to Poland.  Would it surprise anyone if that pipeline were sabotaged?  Now maybe this isn’t something the Russians would want to do.  Maybe they have other fish to fry with the Poles.  But it seems to me that the US has moved into entirely new territory with the bombing of the pipelines and they should expect the Russians to respond in kind.

Now, maybe this is all according to plan.  Maybe the people running our foreign policy (and domestic policy) are looking for a response.  As I said yesterday, this may be a tail wagging the dog operation they’re running and they need a Russian reaction to provide a distraction from the economy during the mid-term elections.  If that’s the case they may be hoping for something soon and drastic.  If nothing happens then probably the CIA will be disappointed.  I’m sure they want acknowledgement for their wanton destruction.  Maybe a commendation.

But here’s the thing.  This is a different level of provocation than even the military aid we’ve given the Ukraine.  Even with the targeting information and advanced artillery we’ve provided to the Ukrainians the actual attacks have been through proxies.  The sabotaging of the pipelines was done by United States directly.  It was a non-military target and it was completely unrelated to the Ukraine conflict.  It will be answered.

Really the only question is when.  Supposedly the Russians are pretty savvy about injecting their actions into the politics of their adversaries.  After all, hacked by Putin is a byword of Democrat party fear.  What they might do is wait for the mid-term elections to conclude and then once the Democrats have been trounced and can’t benefit from the distraction, I imagine some kind of revenge might occur.  What it might be is hard to know.  I have no knowledge of the relative vulnerabilities of different sections of US infrastructure.

The most likely thing would be an underwater pipeline.  That is what’s known as poetic justice.  But it could be anything.  It might not be sabotage.  It could be a data dump based on some kind of espionage that would be especially embarrassing to the Biden government.  It could be a terror attack coordinated with a Mexican drug cartel.  After all the southern border is essentially wide open.  It could be almost anything.

But the point is the Biden administration has gone out of its way to slap Russia in the face.  Chances are there will be a response and chances are it will be an escalation.  My only hope is that innocent Americans aren’t hurt or killed in the process.  But this is what happens when the foreign policy of a superpower is put in the hands of Yale and Harvard goofballs.  Maybe in 2024 we can rejoin the community of responsible nations again.  Until then just pray it all doesn’t go nuclear.



Nostradumbass has suggested a couple of theme songs for the current situation