Max Morton Has Another Great Read – Semper Tyrannus—Always a Tyrant

If you can stand hearing the details of how the George W. Bush administration kicked out the last of our constitutional rights by weaponizing the FBI read it here.  It’s starting to remind me of the flavor of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago.  They have built a machine to make us the slaves of the Deep State.  I’m starting to wonder whether even if a Red State nullifies the unconstitutional laws whether anyone would be safe to stand against them.  At this point anyone who tells them no is liable to be whisked off to a Super Max prison and never heard from again.

How the hell did we come to this?  Maybe it makes more sense to just get out.

Night Must Fall (1937) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

This is a very strange movie.  Robert Montgomery plays Danny, a young man working at a hotel when a murder takes place.  The police suspect him but a rich cantankerous old woman, Mrs. Bramson, hires him to be her personal assistant and live in her home on an isolated forested estate.  Supposedly Danny is going to marry Bramson’s maid Dora.  But he seems more interested in Bramson’s niece Olivia played by Rosalind Russell.  To round out the household is the acid-tongued cook Emily.

So that’s the setup.  Mrs. Bramson is a bitter unpleasant woman who even despises her own niece but Danny pretends affection for the old lady and a sensitivity to her problems and becomes her closest companion.  Olivia can see that he is acting but for whatever reason she doesn’t expose him for a phony when she has the chance.

But much more seriously, she begins to suspect that Danny is the murderer and that he has the murdered woman’s head in a locked hatbox that he keeps in his room.  When the police inspector questions Danny about the murder and searches his room, he finds the hatbox and demands that Danny open it but Olivia intervenes and claims the box is hers and the Inspector relents.  Now this seems inexplicable.  She claims that she dislikes and distrusts Danny but for some reason she saves him.  Later on, Danny tells her that she is actually attracted to him because of the excitement he has brought into her life.

And indeed, Olivia is desperate for something to relieve the boredom of her hum-drum existence living with her aunt in this isolated rural environment.  She longs for excitement and for that reason has rejected the marriage proposal of Justin Laurie who is her aunt’s lawyer and an affectionate, dependable if unexciting suitor.

But everything comes to a head and Olivia cracks under the strain of living in the house with the manic Danny and she flees to Justin’s home leaving her aunt alone with Danny.  Danny murders her and empties her safe of a large amount of cash.  He prepares to burn down the house when Olivia returns and confronts him over the murder.  He happily admits it and informs her that she too will be murdered and burned in the fire.  But just then Justin arrives with the police and Danny has a final scene to declare his madness to himself in a hallway mirror before being carted away for justice.

This is a very strange movie.  My read is this is a woman’s movie.  Other than the murderer the main characters are all women.  The lonely house in the woods reinforces this strange dynamic of women isolated with a sociopathic man who preys on women.  But only Olivia has figured it all out.  Mrs. Bramson is completely taken in.  Dora and Emily can’t make up their minds if he is real or not.  But even Olivia is mesmerized by his tour de force.  She knows he’s a liar and she suspects that he’s a murderer but she retains a sympathy for him that’s hard to believe.

I asked Camera Girl about this because she’s a woman.  I said, “You’re a woman, is this possible?”  She said it could be somewhat believable that a woman who was so desperately bored might welcome the distraction of experiencing the weirdness of such a colorful character.  So, we agreed that although the idea of Olivia helping Danny escape detection is sort of hard to believe, the movie was fairly interesting.

Montgomery’s portrayal of Danny and Russell’s Olivia are fairly compelling characters.  And the rest of the cast is very good too.  As much as this movie is odd and the motif of Olivia allowing Danny to escape detection is far-fetched, nevertheless, I will still recommend this movie for people who like psychological dramas.

05MAY2021 – American Greatness – Post of the Day – Oligarchy, and Remedies by Angelo Codevilla

This is a short post by Codevilla asserting that before we can act effectively against the usurpers in Washington, we must first acknowledge that the Republic as we knew it is already extinguished and replaced by the oligarchy that controls both the bureaucracy in Washington and the globalist corporations that work hand in glove with them.  But once we do acknowledge this reality, we can take effective action to organize like minded people to start effecting a different future for ourselves that doesn’t revolve around the oligarchic domain.

Codevilla points in the direction of the governors of red states beginning to nullify the dictates of the federal government where they overstep constitutional limits.  But he does not go into any detail as to how this will happen and what level of resistance the federal government will offer.  But I think we all are beginning to see that some extremely brave men will be needed to cross a kind of Rubicon at some point in the not-too-distant future.  If not, then the idea of escaping the oligarchy will be just a fantasy.

I find it is becoming increasingly easy to hear the same ideas being stated by different types of writers.  Codevilla is an academic.  But plenty of ordinary people and plenty of pundits are beginning to coalesce around the idea that a rejection of the regime in Washington is what is already happening.  The biggest question is when will a serious collision happen and who will win?

I Come to Bury the Oscars Not to Praise Them

I read today that the Oscars took place last night and that the ratings had shrunk by 58% below the already lowest ratings of the year before.  I laughed heartily for several minutes while I read the details of this farcical proceeding.  I think the very best bit was the fact that the Best Actor award was saved for the end to highlight what they hoped would be the victory of the star of the Black Panther super hero movie who died of cancer.  But then he surprisingly lost to Anthony Hopkins in a non-Hannibal Lecter part.  And then just to add insult to injury Hopkins didn’t bother to stay up to accept the award and it had to be accepted by the janitor at the laundromat where the ceremony took place.

It’s just marvelous to watch as these creepy perverts who lecture us on morality fall into the dustheap of history.  Even the shills who pretend to provide honest reviews of these awful movies admitted this year that even they had never heard of some of these movies and that there was little or no chance that anyone who wasn’t forced at gunpoint would pay to see any of them.

Here’s the list:

  • Nomadland
  • The Father
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Mank
  • Minari
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7

The only one that has at least a reason to be on a list of American motion pictures is Mank.  It’s about an American movie director during the Golden Age of Hollywood and stars Gary Oldman whom I really like.  All the rest of the movies are either diversity projects or so awful that they’re basically daring you to go see them, or both.  Nomadland won the Oscar because the director is a Chinese woman.  Reading the plot summary, I was struck by how awful it sounded.  The Father was the movie that Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor award for.  He plays an Alzheimer victim.  The Sound of Metal is the story of a heavy metal drummer who is going deaf.  Judas and the Black Messiah and The Trial of the Chicago 7 are the obligatory black struggle films.  Minari is the obligatory Korean immigrant story.  And finally Promising Young Woman is the female empowerment rape revenge movie.

Wow.  Who wouldn’t want to just run out and see all these movies over and over again?

Well anyway, it’s truly gratifying to see that they’ve finally crashed and burned their whole tawdry industry and there’s nothing left to do but dig a whole and bury the whole stupid enterprise underneath that broken down Hollywood sign on the hill.  It should be interesting to see if some country that isn’t completely infected with woke imbecility manages to start making movies that people want to see.  I know it seems unlikely but honestly in the past it happened all the time.  Maybe it’ll have to be stone age people in Papua New Guinea or the Amazon jungle.  Places that have never heard of Hollywood.  Or maybe space aliens might crash land and take up movie making as a way to earn money to buy repair parts for their warp drive.  But however it happens, I’d like to think that someday we’ll do better than this crap.

Side Jobs and Brief Cases – Two Short Story Collections from The Dresden Files – by Jim Butcher – An SF&F Book Review

These two books are each a group of short stories that Jim Butcher has collected.  Side Jobs was published in 2010 and Brief Cases was published in 2018.  In each case Butcher collected the stories that had been published in anthologies then added a new novella at the end.  And obviously the differences in subject matter and tone in the collections match up with the where they fit in the chronology of the Dresden Files at the time they were written.  But just as with the overall series the “feel” of the stories and especially the character of Harry himself is surprisingly consistent.  He is as always, a wise-cracking, annoying defender of the human world against the forces of the various supernatural creatures he opposes.  He battles White, Red and Black Court vampires, ghosts, sorcerers, werewolves, faeries and other folklore creatures.  Harry is always a little too lefty and feminist for my complete stamp of approval but Butcher writes a very good story and I have been reading these books for a very long time and even when some lefty cultural stance annoys me, I still read and enjoy the story.  And these stories are no exception.  Some character or some comment from Harry will annoy me but I’ll still read and enjoy each story.

The stories are self-sufficient and can be read alone without the need to jump into the next one.  And because the stories were written for various anthologies some of them have oddball plots that were picked to fit in to some overarching theme.  Like in Brief Cases there is a western story called “A Fistful of Warlocks” that was written for an anthology called “Straight Outta Tombstone.”  And likewise for other stories that had themes relating to weddings or relationships or even beer or baseball.  But even the stories that you would think would be just a throwaway Butcher puts in the work and makes the story hang together.  And in these short stories sometimes Harry isn’t even the narrator.  Thomas Raith, John Marcone, Karrin Murphy and even Molly Carpenter each narrate a story.   And especially in the case of Thomas and Marcone I think these add a lot of interest to the story because of the very different point of view of these characters from Harry.

Just as with the rest of the Dresden Files these books cannot be enjoyed unless you already have read the first few books about Harry.  But it is good to know that Jim Butcher takes the time to make even his short stories worth reading.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 25 – Bread and Circuses

Holy absurdity Batman, here we go again with “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development.”  It wasn’t enough to have Yangs and Kohms in the episode The Omega Glory.  Now we get a planet that has the Roman Empire.  But wait there’s more.  Rome survives into the twentieth century and their version of General Motors advertises for their latest car model, the Jupiter 8, by sponsoring televised gladiatorial games on their version of Wide World of Sports.  Oh the pain, the pain.

Six years earlier a merchant ship the “The Beagle” went missing.  Captain R.M. Merik commanded the ship and is known to Kirk because he washed out at the academy because he was a doofus.  The Enterprise finds the wrecked ship and Kirk, Spock and McCoy head down to the planet to find the crew.  There they are immediately captured, of course, and we find out that Merik is now emperor and called Merikus (nice latinizing).  And he’s persecuting the Sun worshippers.

Blah, blah, blah, Spock and McCoy are forced into the gladiatorial arena.  Blah, blah, blah, Kirk is enticed by the pretty blonde slave.  Blah, blah, blah, Scotty uses some engineering rigamarole to save the landing party when they’re about to be skewered.  Merik dies nobly after being a cowardly worm for the last six years.  Landing party escapes and leaves the planet alone because of the prime directive.  Spock jibber jabbers about the illogic of sun worship and Uhura corrects them that it isn’t “the sun up in the sky, it’s the Son of God.”

Great googly moogly.  They must have had nothing.  Okay, as parody there is some value here.  When the gladiator Flavius fails to convincingly attack McCoy in the arena one of the roman legionnaires whips him and threatens to have a special episode on television devoted to his death in the arena.  The tv announcer at the gladiatorial show is obviously done for laughs and is actually quite funny as satire of live tv production.  He has dials to allow him to add in cheering, boos, catcalls and laughter.  So as comedy the show has some value.  But what are the science fiction fans to make of this.  I guess that Star Trek had devolved into Gilligan’s Island.

The scenes with Kirk and the blonde slave girl allows at least a modicum of Shatner mockery value so I’ll give the episode a 4 // 5.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – A Movie Review

I’ll start off by saying this is a terrible movie.  But maybe it’s so bad it’s good.

Frank Sinatra is an Army Major named Bennett Marco who is captured along with his platoon during the Korean War and sent into China to be brainwashed to be part of a political assassination plot that the Russians have arranged.  The platoon sergeant Raymond Shaw is the assassin and as it turns out his mother, played by Angela Lansbury, is the Russian agent who is his handler.  He is programmed to obey instructions that he gets after he’s been triggered by seeing the ace of diamonds during a solitaire game.  His mother is married to a United States Senator that she is going to get elected President by having her son assassinate the Republican presidential candidate.  If this isn’t crazy enough, his mother gets Shaw to assassinate his own newlywed wife and her United States Senator father in order to further the plan.

So, the plot is pretty crazy but it’s kind of fun in a way because of the way they present it.  We get these flash backs of the brainwashing camp.  The Russian doctor demonstrates the control he has over the prisoners by having Shaw kill two of the other prisoners on command.  And based on the false memories that are implanted in the prisoners Shaw gets the Congressional Medal of Honor for supposedly freeing them and killing some ridiculous number of North Korean troops.

Now this could have been a political thriller that works.  But the acting is unbelievably bad.  Some of the dialog is borderline ridiculous.  For instance, Janet Leigh plays a woman who meets Sinatra accidentally on a train and within a day she bails him out of jail for assaulting a Korean house boy and still decides to leave her fiancé to marry him.  And then there is this hilarious karate fight between Sinatra and a fake Korean guy.  It’s like something out of one of the Austin Powers movies.  One of his karate chops misses and ends up knocking an enormous chunk out of a wooden table.  But it looks as if it’s made of styrofoam.  I think that fight may have been the inspiration for Inspector Clouseau’s battles against his Oriental House Boy Kato in the Pink Panther movies.

I read that this is considered to be in several top 100 film lists.  I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

On a personal note, there is a scene in the movie that was filmed in a restaurant in Manhattan called Jilly’s.  Jilly Rizzo, the owner of the restaurant and the guy who is seen tending bar in the movie was one of Sinatra’s closest friends.  Jilly was convicted in 1990 of a loan fraud scheme on his restaurant that involved some very old acquaintances of mine.  And some of these acquaintances worked at Jilly’s and even knew Sinatra from his visits there.  I think the fraud scheme and this movie are in some ways kindred entities.  They both possess a spirit of inept dishonesty.  A bungled fraud.

So, this movie has a personal connection for me.  But that in no way changes my opinion of its quality.  If I remember correctly Sinatra did sometimes do some decent acting.  I’m going to watch “The Joker is Wild” again because I think he was pretty good in that.  I never noticed any acting going on in Ocean’s Eleven.  People say he was good in “From Here to Eternity.”  That part seemed a little melodramatic to me.  “The Man with the Golden Arm” never interested me.  Maybe he was good in it.  But without a doubt, The Manchurian Candidate was abysmally bad.

Recommended only as camp.

09APR2021 – OCF Update – Life Imitates Art

On such a beautiful day I naturally decided to spend it extracting thorn brambles and Russian olive trees with a shovel and a 6 foot pry bar.  After a couple of hours of sweat and back ache I remembered a line from the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

Curtin:  What are you going to do with your hard-earned money old timer when you get back and cash in?

Howard:  I’m getting along in years.  Oh, I can still hold up my end when it comes to a hard day’s work but I ain’t the man I was once, and next year, next month, next week I won’t be the man I am today.  Reckon I’ll find me some quiet place to settle down.  Buy a business maybe … a grocery or a hardware store, and spend the better part of my time reading comic strips and adventure stories.  One thing’s for sure … I ain’t going to go prospecting again and waste my time and money trying to find another gold mine.

I certainly know what Howard was talking about in that scene.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – A Movie Review

Jimmy Stewart is small town attorney Paul Biegler in Upper Peninsula Michigan who is defending Army Lt. Frederick Manion (played by Ben Gazzara) who has shot and killed a man, Barney Quill, after he raped Manion’s wife Laura.  The prosecution in this case, Asst. State Atty. General Claude Dancer is played by George C. Scott.  Biegler is trying to prove that Lt. Manion killed his wife’s attacker while in a dissociative state because of his shock at his wife’s attack.  The prosecution has a two-fold job.  They try to convince the jury that Lt. Manion was in his right mind when he shot Quill and also that Mrs. Manion was an unfaithful wife and was voluntarily involved with her attacker.

The majority of the film is the courtroom trial and the sparring between Jimmy Stewart and George C. Scott is the main attraction.  Scott delivers his dialog with his usual aggressive and nuanced portrayal.  He attacks the Manions on the witness stand with all the brutal skill of a gladiator in the arena.  Stewart is forced to use the sympathy for a brutalized woman and her outraged husband to win the jury’s sympathy.  But the prosecution is able to showcase the flawed relationship between an overly flirtatious woman and her almost insanely jealous husband to give credibility to the idea that Lt. Manion was just a jealous man killing his rival in love and therefore guilty of murder.

A very young Lee Remick as Mrs. Manion is remarkably beautiful and her flirtatiousness throughout the movie does make it more likely for us, the audience, to also believe that her husband murdered Quill in a fit of jealousy associated with her habitually provocative behavior.

The supporting cast that includes Arthur O’Connell and Eve Arden as Jimmy Stewart’s small town legal team and a cameo by Orson Bean as an army psychiatrist add touches of humor to the film and there are even a couple of cameos by Duke Ellington as a jazz musician that reinforces the jazz musical theme for the film.  Not being a jazz-fan, this theme music actually isn’t a big positive for me.

I think the film intentionally leaves open the question of whether Lt. Manion was temporarily insane or not.  But the courtroom action clearly deprives the jury and the audience of the film of any sympathy for the prosecution.  Even believing Manion was not insane when he killed Quill doesn’t force these spectators to sympathize with either the prosecutor or the murder victim.  As flawed as the Manions are we still sympathize with them.  They are human to us.

This is not a great movie.  But it is interesting.  I can recommend it.

Chernobyl (2019) – A TV Series Review

A good friend sent me the DVDs for the HBO five-part-series “Chernobyl.”  Most people are relatively familiar with the 1986 nuclear power plant catastrophe in the Soviet Union (present day Ukraine) by that name and lately there has been a lot of attention paid to the exclusion zone around the plant and how the environment around the plant has begun returning to a wild state without people inhabiting it.  And the disaster at Chernobyl was a very important event both for the Soviet Union and for the world because of the amount of negative sentiment that this failure cast on both the Soviet Union and also the nuclear power industry.  In fact, Gorbachev was said to have written in his memoirs that Chernobyl was the root cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But it is important to state that this film history is a dramatic representation of the events and deviates in several particulars from the actual events.  And in general, the producers have amplified many of the details to make the story more compelling.  Whether there is an ideological component to this amplification is of course hard to say.  But whatever the motivation the dramatic effect is definitely compelling.

The main protagonist of the series is Valery Legasov, a senior Soviet scientist who takes the lead in first convincing the Soviet administration that a terrible disaster has occurred, then advising the emergency operation on how to mitigate the ongoing catastrophe and finally to expose the actual cause of the catastrophe and force the authorities to take the steps necessary to prevent another occurrence.

Other important characters include Boris Shcherbina a central government official who is reluctantly appointed to investigate and then execute the emergency actions needed to cope with the disaster on the ground; Vasily and Lyudmilla Ignatenko, a fire fighter and his wife who are among those who are exposed directly to the results of the hellish radiation levels existing at the site of the explosion; and finally, Ulana Khomyuk, a nuclear scientist who in actuality didn’t exist.  She is a composite of all the nuclear scientists who aided Legasov in his investigation of the causes of the Chernobyl disaster.  Since most people are more or less aware of the historical event let me get down to my reactions to the series.

The first episode is as riveting as a science fiction horror film.    When the explosion occurs the nuclear plant control room staff are told by the chief engineer on duty, Anatoly Dyatlov, that they are only dealing with a small fire caused by a hydrogen explosion in an auxiliary tank.  It appears he is in denial and he orders his crew and the arriving fire fighters to battle the blaze as if it is a normal fire.  Because of this they are effectively fed into the jaws of hell.

As Dyatlov and his superiors try to convince the Soviet officials that the disaster is a small unimportant event, Legasov starts to hear the evidence and at a meeting that includes Mikhail Gorbachev he declares that what has really occurred is the unthinkable.  That the reactor core has exploded and is now strewing enriched uranium into the air, contaminating the Soviet Union and Europe for thousands of miles around and killing anyone who comes close to the source.  When Boris Shcherbina objects that Legasov is just speculating Gorbachev tells him to go with Legasov to Chernobyl and get the facts.

From there the series follows this team to Chernobyl and chronicles their efforts to solve a problem that has never been seen before by humanity.  Interweaved are the stories of the others whose lives have been destroyed by their proximity to the disaster.  Soldiers, scientists, helicopter pilots, miners, doctors and nurses, government officials and family members.  And after the action on the ground there is a trial to lay the blame for Chernobyl at someone’s feet.  And it is at this trial that we finally find out exactly what went on in the control room right before the explosion and we get to see how the Soviet Union handles the truth.

It’s a harrowing story.  And it is well acted.  None of the actors are familiar to me but they are very good.  And mixed in with the horror there are personal moments that touch the viewer.  There are even a very few moments of humor.  I found I had a good deal of empathy for even some of the less noble characters.  They were human beings confronted with inhuman force.  And some of them acquitted themselves with intelligence and bravery.  That makes for a powerful story.