Congratulations to the Dragon Award Winners

Special congratulations to Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen for their awards (list below).  Larry and Brad were charter members of the Sad Puppy movement and took an enormous amount of abuse from the sad pathetic people who game the Hugo Awards every year.  But based on the fate of Campbell Award this year I’m assuming it won’t be the Hugos for much longer but instead the Noras or the Samuels  or some other first name of an author who didn’t have the bad manners to be born a straight white man.

Larry championed the DragonCon’s fan popularity based Dragon Awards contest and it has since displaced the Hugos for all normal humans.  I’m a big fan of Larry’s Monster Hunter series because they’re great fun and because I’m hoping that Adam Baldwin will get the chance to play Agent Franks in the big screen version of the stories.  That would be awesome.

Destination Moon – An OCF Classic Movie Review

The 1950 motion picture Destination Moon is in several aspects an odd duck.  It was an independent production under George Pal’s control.  He worked with Robert A Heinlein to adapt his novel Rocket Ship Galileo into a screen play.  In point of fact the plot changes involved make the movie and the book completely different stories.  For Pal who would go on to make such sci-fi classics as War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and When Worlds Collide this was a chance to make a realistic space flight movie with Heinlein providing the scientific accuracy.

After a government project to build an advanced rocket motor is sabotaged and abandoned a plan is hatched to overcome the loss of government funding in rocket design by recruiting patriotic business leaders to pool their resources to pay for and build a Moon rocket.  General Thayer and Dr. Charles Cargraves were the moving force behind the earlier government project and Jim Barnes is the principal industrialist who uses his aircraft design facilities to build the atomic powered rocket.  Along with Joe Sweeney who provides radio and communication expertise (along with Brooklyn-accented comic relief) these men will be the crew to travel back and forth to the Moon.

When local bureaucracy threatens to tie up the launch in the courts, the team decides to launch immediately.  Just as the sheriffs are arriving to serve the launch injunction the crew is riding the elevator up to the cockpit.  The ship takes off and the crew gets to experience the pain of eight gee take off acceleration and the nausea associated with zero gravity conditions.  Shortly after taking off they discover the need to do a space walk to repair equipment.  One of the astronauts carelessly allows his magnetic boots to become separated from the ship’s hull while not holding onto his tether and begins floating away from the ship.  One of his mates has to use an oxygen cylinder as a makeshift rocket to rendezvous with the lost man and bring him back.

As the rocket approaches the Moon, errors in the navigation (or should I say astrogation) force the crew to expend to much reaction mass from the rocket to land in their planned destination.  Mission control on Earth begins calculating how much weight must be removed from the ship to balance the reduced capacity of the ship’s fuel load.

Meanwhile the crew investigates the Moon.  The first thing they do is claim the Moon for the United States (for the good of all mankind).  Using a Geiger counter General Thayer discovers large deposits of uranium.  Later on, one of the astronauts takes a picture of Joe Sweeney holding his arm up in such away that it looks like he is holding up Earth in the sky behind him.

The calculations on the fuel are distressing.  The ship has to be lightened by over a ton.  The crew starts removing everything that isn’t required to get the ship back to Earth.  But even after sawing off any metal components of the ship that can be removed, they’re still short by one hundred ten pounds.

Barnes, Cargraves and Thayer realize that someone has to stay behind and each one of them tries to convince the other two that he is the one to stay based on authority, age or responsibility.  Meanwhile Sweeney takes it upon himself to take the last space suit and leave the ship.  He tells them to leave without him.  But Barnes figures out a trick to get them below the weight limit.  With a rat-tailed file Sweeney puts a notch in the outer door frame of the air lock.  A heavy oxygen cylinder is hung outside the ship from a line that runs through the notch in the door.  With the door closed the airlock is pressurized with only a slow leak from the notch.  Then Sweeney ties the space suit to the other end of the line.  Once Sweeney reenters the ship the outer door is opened and the weight of the cylinder drags the space suit out the door.  Then the ship launches back to Earth.

And the movie ends with the words THE END followed by “of the Beginning.”

Destination Moon is a landmark.  It is the first reasonably accurate portrayal of actual space flight.  Coming nineteen years before Apollo 11 it is remarkably realistic.  Now as cinema it definitely isn’t King Lear or even King Kong but it’s excellent propaganda for a space program.  And it does contain all the correct tropes of the time.  If you are a sci-fi fan this movie is a must see.

Plan 9 from Outer Space – A Science Fiction Movie Review

War Pig has staked out the schlock sci-fi movie review corner but I hope he won’t mind if I try my hand at the grand daddy of all bad sci fi movies.

Summarizing the plot of Plan 9 is absurd.  Aliens have become alarmed by Earth’s increasingly powerful weapons and try to contact us to warn us of our danger.  But allegedly, we refuse to acknowledge they are even there so they proceeded to attack us.  But the first eight plans are ineffective so that leads to “Plan 9,” namely, resurrecting the dead.  Now the resurrected dead are murdering the citizenry and generally causing trouble.  Finally, the police, an army officer and an airline pilot join forces to find the alien space craft and destroy it.

Yes, the plot is idiotic but that is the least ridiculous aspect of this movie.  Everything about this movie fairly screams mental illness.  The movie begins with an invocation by the Narrator, Criswell.  Criswell appears to be a lunatic with his bizarre vocal delivery, oddly jelled hair and bedazzled tuxedo.  He tells us this is based on a true story and the guilty will be punished and the innocent rewarded, whatever that means.

In the next scene we see what looks like amateur footage of a frail looking Bela Lugosi attending a burial.  Then he is killed (off camera by a car crash sound effect).  This was necessary because this was all the footage of Lugosi they had.  He died before the movie was made and the producer/director/writer/editor, Ed Wood used this existing footage to allow Lugosi’s name to be tacked on the film.  Now Lugosi and his pre-deceased wife (Vampira) rise from the dead and start attacking the living.  But the fact that Lugosi was really dead meant that someone else had to portray “the Old Man.”  Luckily Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor, Tom Mason was available.  The fact that he was a foot taller, years younger and looked nothing like Lugosi was easily overcome by having Mason stoop over, and hold his Dracula cape in front of his face during all his scenes.

Vampira is a hoot with her wide-eyed stare, stiff armed zombie shamble and divided cleavage get-up.  Eventually when gigantic wrestler Tor Johnson is killed by Vampira and zombified he joins the other two ghouls as they stalk the living and stumble around the set.

One of my favorite scenes is where the flying saucers make their appearance.  Jeff Trent is an airline pilot.  He and his copilot are in the cockpit (or actually in a room with a curtain over the door).  They’re sitting on folding chairs and instead of the control yoke in front of him, each man has a piece of wood shaped like nothing in particular sticking out of the floor.  When they look out the window, we see three flying saucers that are pretty obviously wobbling on strings.

When the army counter attacks against these alien craft, we get to see a man in a military uniform, standing in a room, looking through binoculars as stock WW II footage of a rocket launcher unloads on something.  Now the flying saucers head back to their space station where the aliens provide an update to their leader.  And we find out about the earthlings’ bad manners in not acknowledging that the aliens even exist.

I won’t go into all the absurdities that crowd the whole length of this dopey masterpiece of schlock but I’ll cut to the climax.  The heroes enter the flying saucer and interrogate the saucer captain Eros and he tells them that the reason that he is killing earthlings is because “you’re stupid, stupid!”  So, he gets in a shouting match with Jeff Trent and eventually a fist fight.  And when Trent punches Eros and he bumps into a table with what looks like the guts of a 1930s vacuum tube radio on it, the radio bursts into flames and eventually burns the saucer and causes it to explode.  Now we return to Criswell who tells us what we’ve seen is based on fact but follows up by saying, “Can you prove it didn’t happen?”

Ed Wood must have known how awful this movie was but you can see that he lavished loving attention on some of the details like the credits.  The acting is abysmal when it isn’t non-existent.  The special effects are what you’d expect from a grammar school film maker.  Basically, this is a freak show.  But I have to confess that I can watch this about once every five years and enjoy it.  I recommend that every fan of 1950s science fiction movies watch it at least once in his life.

The Best Years of Our Lives – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Nineteen Forty Six was a pivotal year in the American Century.  The United States had won World War II by harnessing the minds and bodies of its people and focusing that output single-mindedly on victory on the battlefield.  It had required all its young men to drop their lives and join the most powerful fighting machine ever assembled.  But equally extreme was the disruption that this mobilization had on the rest of the population.  The industrial capacity of the country was shifted over from producing cars and clothes for the populace to producing battleships, tanks, munitions and supplies needed to maintain millions of men across a far-flung battle field that spanned the globe.

And those industries had to produce this war-time materiel with almost none of their regular workers.  They had to train women and older men to take the places of their husbands, sons and fathers.  Other disruptions existed because of the male deployment.  Marriage and family growth were often postponed until after the war.  But equally disruptive were the last minute marriages and even conceptions that were consummated in defiance of the war’s demands.  Many a young woman had to raise a posthumous child to a father who would never return to his family.

But finally the war was over.  By dint of the effort of millions and with the help of a couple of atomic bombs the war was won and done.  Now these millions of soldiers. sailors, airmen and marines were returning home to their families and friends.  But in many ways, the returning men were strangers in a strange land.  They were changed and so was the country.  Whereas, for the last four years, they had been the focus of all that went on, now they were being deposited back in the country to try and restart their lives where they left off.  But things were not where they left off.  The jobs they had had before their enlistments were either being done by someone else or didn’t even exist anymore.  And the meager but regular paychecks they got from Uncle Sam would soon disappear.

And finally, many of these men were physically or mentally wounded.  In addition to the injured and maimed a great number of them were victims of what today we call PTSD.  The experiences they had lived through had left a mark on their minds that only time might heal.  The ones that had lost limbs had the added physical and psychological difficulties associated with these losses.

The Best Years of Our Lives was a movie that ambitiously attempted to portray and speak to these realities.  And this was an innovation for the times.  Up until this point Hollywood portrayed America’s wartime experience through a patriotic lens that glossed over many of the harsh realities that existed.  But this movie cast a veteran who had lost his hands in the war (Harold Russell) as Sailor Homer Parrish one of the returning servicemen.  The realities of divorces and unemployment and the depression associated with the alienation and various disruptions impacting the former GIs are openly addressed and nothing is glossed over for the sake of sparing the audience.

Frederic March and Dana Andrews along with the above-mentioned Harold Russel are the protagonists.  They meet on the airplane ride back to their home town of Boone City and the three men bond over the relief and anxiety associated with leaving the service and returning to civilian life.  March is a forty-something infantry sergeant named Al Stephenson and Andrews is Army Air Corps Captain Fred Derry.  But whereas Captain Derry was a highly paid officer and a gentleman in the service he returns home with his only civilian work experience being a soda jerk at the local drug store.  Alternatively, Stephenson trades in his infantry grunt existence for the comfortable lifestyle of a bank officer.  Homer Parrish returns home to the pity and awkward glances from friends and family associated with his missing hands.

Al Stephenson reintroduces himself to his wife Milly and his son and daughter.  Milly (played by Myrna Loy) tries to make Al feel at home but they both are ill at ease trying to take up their relationship where it left off.  Finally, nervous about heading to bed early he drags Milly and daughter Peggy off to the local watering holes to drink away his nerves with scotch.

Meanwhile Fred Derry reaches his father’s home to discover that his young wife Marie has moved out into her own apartment downtown and is working as a cocktail waitress in a night club.  He heads out trying to find out what night club Marie is working at.

And finally, Homer is home with his and his girlfriend’s families celebrating his return and talking about his future.  But he becomes so unhappy with the tense and nervous atmosphere that he leaves to hang out at his Uncle Butch’s bar.

And so, all three ex-servicemen coincidentally meet up at Butch’s Place.  And there we see Al and Fred get royally drunk to distract themselves from their domestic issues.  And in this impaired condition Fred flirts mildly with Peggy Stephenson.  Finally, Butch tells Homer his family wants him home and Milly and Peggy manage to drag Al and Fred into the car and after Fred fails to gain entry into Marie’s apartment building, they drive both men back to the Stephenson apartment where the fall-down-drunk men are bedded down.  During the night Peggy hears Fred Derry crying out.  He was reliving a nightmare where some of his comrades were shot out of the air.  The next morning, he apologizes for waking her and she sympathetically assures him that she didn’t mind.  Peggy gives Fred a lift to his wife’s building and this time he gets in.  Now we meet Marie.  Fred married a very beautiful woman (played by Virginia Mayo) whom he had only known for days when he was deployed to Europe.  Now we see that Marie is a selfish, materialistic woman who expects to be supported in the style she has been accustomed to as a night club denizen.  While Fred has a thousand-dollar severance payment from the service they live it up.  But when the money runs out the couple begin to battle over Marie’s dissatisfaction.

Meanwhile Al and Milly reconnect and talk about their children and Al’s future with the bank he left when he enlisted.  Al tells Milly that he feels responsible to help all the other veterans who didn’t come home to a good job and need some help to get their lives back on track.  He uses his position as a loan officer to help fellow veterans who need GI loans to try to catch up with the new world they find themselves in.  This puts him at odds with the bank president but Al perseveres to champion his fellow vets.

At Homer Parrish’s house we meet Homer’s sweetheart Wilma and find that although she is demonstrably in love with Homer, he is withdrawn and morose.  She asks him why he hasn’t asked her to marry him.  But he tells her he doesn’t want to ruin her life by tying her down to a helpless cripple.  Homer is so unhappy that he explodes in frustration when he thinks his little sister and her friends are gawking in a window at his prosthetic hands.  Finally, Wilma tells Homer that her parents want her to leave town to forget him but she wants him to marry her.  Homer decides to let her see just how helpless he is when he removes his prostheses.  But instead of recoiling from his injuries she embraces him and proves to him that she wants to be with him.  They set the date for their wedding.

An additional story line involves a romantic attachment that grows between Fred Derry and Peggy Stephenson.  When Al finds out about his daughter’s romance with the married Fred, he angrily confronts him for involving his daughter in an extra-marital affair and Fred stoically agrees to break it off.  But even with Peggy out of the picture Fred and Marie fall apart and he leaves home while she declares her intention to get a divorce.  When he leaves, he intends to leave town and start his life over somewhere else.  But while waiting for a flight at the airport he roams through the warplane graveyard and climbs into a bomber.  While reliving some disturbing memory from the war he is discovered by a man who is reclaiming the old planes for construction scrap materials and is told to get out of the plane.  Fred asks if he has any jobs available and manages to convince the man that he is a good prospect and so Fred restarts his life again in his home town.

Now the three ex-servicemen meet up at Homer’s wedding where Al, Milly and Peggy are friends of the groom and Fred is the best man.  Now that Fred is no longer married, he and Al no longer have a reason for fighting and at the end of the night Fred and Peggy come back together and decide to marry.

 

Back in 1946 when winning an Academy Award actually meant the movie was good, The Best Years of Our Lives was competing against It’s a Wonderful Life.  And I think The Best Years of Our Lives won because America needed to move beyond the simplified vision of life represented by It’s a Wonderful Life and recognize the harsh realities and ugly side to life that came along with the changes that the war generated such as the liberation of women and the choice of some of them to embrace a life style that did not value a traditional family role.  But acknowledging the problems facing the returning vets made this movie resonate with the American people.

In my opinion it is one of the best films ever made.  The acting by March and Loy is exceptional and Andrews, Russell and several other players are also excellent.  It captures the feeling of the time and who the American people were back then.

After you’ve read enough sexbot articles on Drudge maybe switch to something interesting

Guest Contributor – War Pig – The Killer Shrews – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Killer Shrews: Schlock at its finest. Poor special effects, hackneyed plot and ham acting. They used hand puppets of the giant killer shrews for up-close shots. They looked like an oversize stuffed mouse with chopstick fangs glued in and black ping pong balls for eyes. For action sequences, they used coon hounds with carpet and fur attached to them and never shot them close up. The coon hound shrews supposedly ate the token Black man in the movie, which would be protested today.

 

The premise is that a Swedish scientist was working on the then threatened coming food apocalypse. He had a Hispanic servant (Alfredo de Soto; more racist tokenism), a cowardly assistant (played by Gunsmoke’s Festus, Ken Curtis, who was an investor in the film and also a fine western actor and amazingly good singer), a beautiful Swedish daughter (played by the attractive Swedish actress Ingrid Goude) and an American assistant scientist played by Gordon McLendon. They are on an isolated island somewhere in the Atlantic hurricane zone so they can be left alone, especially by federal inspectors. James Best (most famous for playing Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrain on Dukes of Hazzard) plays the captain of the small motor ship bringing them supplies. With him is the faithful Black actor Judge Henry Dupree who is his first mate and apparently engineer, playing the character Rook.

 

A hurricane is approaching, so they have to anchor in the protected harbor and wait it out before unloading. The captain goes ashore to meet with the scientists while Rook runs extra anchors and has to tie the boat to a tree ashore. The captain is met by Ken Curtis’ character who is armed and takes him to the residence. There he is told what all is happening, that the experiment went astray and they accidentally created giant killer shrews who must eat their body weight daily to survive, that other animal food is running out, that the shrews are mostly nocturnal and that they will eat humans with gusto.

 

Poor Rook is chased and run up a tree by the coon hound shrews and the effects are so poor you can see the lines pulling the tree down supposedly under Rook’s impressive weight to his doom of being eaten alive. The shrews then surround the residence like the Little Big Horn and try to get in to eat the humans. They dig through the adobe walls and have to be shot or burned. One grazes the assistant scientist’s leg and they therefore find out that the shrews are also deadly venomous, as he dies shortly thereafter. The Hispanic servant also dies from a shrew bite. The shrews make a very distinctive noise that sounds something like “aaawk-ch-ch-ch!”. The shrews are also enthusiastically cannibalistic and will eat any form of meat, including each other, to quell their ravenous appetites.

 

The surviving humans decide they must escape and create a human-powered tank made of barrels roped together. Ken Curtis refuses as he is deathly afraid of the shrews and stays behind. Creeping in the tank the Captain, the Scientist and his lovely daughter make it, barely, to the water where the shrews, who cannot swim, leave them and go back to eat Ken Curtis who, instead of camping out on the roof and safe for a couple of days until the shrews turn on each other, stupidly tried to run off through the woods and he suffers Rook’s fate. As the shrews take him down he screams like a 12 year old girl with a spider on her face. The survivors swim to the motor launch and the Scientist declares; “In twenty-four hours there will be only one shrew left on the island, and he will die of starvation.”

 

This movie and it’s double feature The Giant Gila Monster made a surprising amount of money on the drive-in circuit. Although they were both low budget and schlocky even for 1959, I enjoyed the two movies at the drive-in. An amazing fact is that James Best reprises his role as the captain in the remake “Return of the Killer Shrews” in 2012, which was mostly a mockumentary of the original with even worse special effects and played for laughs. I am probably one of the very few people who have seen both movies. It is also a break of 53 years between the original and the sequel. Has to be some kind of record.

Blade Runner 2049 – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I saw Blade Runner in 1982.  It was a dystopic sci-fi story based on a Philip K Dick story, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”  Harrison Ford is a cop named Rick Deckard whose job is to terminate runaway androids (replicants), he’s called a blade runner.  The movie was constructed as a film noir with Deckard in love with a woman that he knows to be a replicant.  The movie is full of dark violent imagery.  And the story has at its core the concept of the inherent dignity of all human life and the injustice of denying anyone freedom.  And Rutger Hauer was a lot of fun running amok as a brilliant homicidal replicant named Roy Batty.

Since this is Orion’s Cold Fire, I feel it is necessary to record here Roy’s final speech before dying:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain. Time to die.”  It’s effective, both dramatically and emotionally.  In point of fact it’s the best thing in the movie.

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to this movie.  It’s about thirty years after the first movie and K (played by Ryan Gosling) is a replicant who works for the Los Angeles police department as a blade runner.  While terminating a rogue replicant he detects a body buried under a tree on the replicant’s farm.  Forensic evidence points to the body belonging to the replicant that Deckard ran away with at the end of the first movie.  And the forensics shows that she gave birth to a child.  This is supposed to be impossible and so frightens the law enforcement establishment that they order K to find the child and terminate it and destroy all evidence of its existence.

But based on evidence associated with the child in K’s search he begins to believe that he is that child.  Because of the usefulness and efficiency of having replicants fertile, Niander Wallace, the wealthy, brilliant and evil CEO of the replicant manufacturing corporation wants to find the child in order to learn the secret of its ability.

This scenario sparks all manner of fights and chases and clues are found and people are hunted down.  Eventually K finds the woman who delivers the child and learns he is not the child.  He finds Deckard (reprised by Ford) and reunites him with his daughter.

I thought it was an awful movie.  It was full of off-putting action, boring and confusing dialog and unsympathetic characters.  Even as science fiction it didn’t make any sense.  We can currently read the entire genome of any human being.  How could it be possible for a future world that could produce synthetic humans not be able to make them fertile.  Also, since as we learned in the first movie, these replicants were born adult and only lived a few short years, how could having them gestate other replicants make any sense?  They would be born infants and take twenty years to mature.  Or even if in the meantime replicants now lived longer why were humanoid slaves needed at all?  The advances in artificial intelligence showcased in the movie made the need for android slaves nonsensical.

But honestly, all that is beside the point.  The movie was terrible.

The French Connection – A Movie Review

When the “The French Connection” came out in 1971 I was a high school freshman.  My home room teacher was trying to come up with a class trip that would be less boring than the usual trip to a museum.  So, he took the class to a Manhattan theater to see this film.  I would say that was the only successful school trip during my four years there.

The movie is shot in the gritty and sometimes annoying cinema verité style that was popular at the time and the soundtrack is full of weird and fairly arbitrary sounds and music meant to add a disorienting sensation to the movie.  And the New York City streets and low life environs that make up a good chunk of the geography of the film are an ugly and depressing scene.  But the movie succeeds on its own terms.  It is the story of Popeye Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) a New York City Police detective who works undercover with his partner Buddy Russo (played by Roy Scheider) to try to stem the flow of heroin into the city.  Popeye is a cowboy who will use violence and intimidation to find out where the low-level drug dealers are getting their heroin from.  And his recklessness in capturing the bad guys has led to the death of a fellow cop at some time in the past.

Based on the info of an informant Popeye learns that a huge shipment of heroin is coming into the country from France.  The mastermind behind the deal is a Frenchman named Alain Charnier who is accompanied by his hitman Pierre Nicoli.  They are arranging to sell the drugs to a small time Brooklyn gangster named Sal Boca who along with his young wife Angie run a sandwich shop and drug dealership.  In the movie Popeye and Buddy discover Sal’s part in the drug deal completely at random.  They were in the Copacabana after work for a drink when Popeye notices a number of mob-connected drug dealers socializing with a young couple that neither of the detectives recognize.  On a hunch they follow the couple and see them change cars and appearance before assuming the part of small business owners in Brooklyn.  After checking their police records and observing Sal enter the building of a known drug financier named Joel Weinstock, Popeye becomes convinced that Sal is part of the heroin deal and asks his boss to request wire taps for Sal’s home and business.

The two Frenchmen reach New York and Popeye and Buddy, assisted by some federal agents, follow Sal and identify his contacts.  But Charnier is aware of the surveillance and plays a game of cat and mouse with Popeye, in one case outwitting him in a game of follow the leader on a subway car.  But the lack of results frustrates the police hierarchy and the assignment is cancelled with Popeye and Buddy sent back to the street work they usually do.  But Charnier’s hitman Pierre Nicoli is unhappy with Popeye knowing so much about the plan and he tells his boss that he will take care of the detective.

In the next scene Popeye is walking home to his apartment in the Marlborough Housing Project off 86th Street in south Brooklyn when a rifle shot strikes a nearby woman wheeling a baby carriage.  After Popeye avoids another half-dozen rounds, he goes up to the roof to find the sniper.  He finds the rifle but Nicoli has fled and looking down Popeye sees the man fleeing the area.  He chases Nicoli to the elevated subway station of the B train and sees the killer escape on a train.  Popeye flags down a motorist and commandeers his car.  What follows is one of the greatest car chase scenes in movie history.  The elevated train line Straddles and constricts 86th Street running beneath it.  And this narrowness and the congestion of the traffic along this busy road makes the high-speed chase that Popeye attempts essentially suicidal.  He’s chasing an overhead train on a crowded road by weaving in and out of the oncoming lane while traveling at what’s supposed to be sixty miles an hour.  Suffice it to say the unlucky motorist wouldn’t be getting much of his car back at the end of Popeye’s race.

Meanwhile Nicoli is commandeering the train and preventing it from stopping at the local stations.  In the commission of this plan he shoots an NYPD officer and the train conductor and gives the subway motorman a heart attack which leads to the train crashing into the back of another train on the same track.  Staggering out of the wreck Nicoli tries to leave the elevated station but Popeye has managed to reach the station ahead of him and when Nicoli tries to run Popeye shoots him in the back and guards his body until the police arrive.

After the killings committed by Nicoli, the investigation is relaunched and Popeye and Buddy are in charge again.  They discover the drugs hidden in a car planted for the exchange and once the deal takes place, they spring their trap.  A small army of police surround the deserted building on Ward Island where the drug dealers are holed up.  Sal is killed in the gun battle but the rest of the New York gang and the drugs are captured by the police.  Now Popeye and Buddy go after Charnier.  Popeye tells Buddy that Charnier is in the far end of the building.  Popeye walks straight toward the room but when a figure appears in the doorway Popeye cuts him down with five shots from his revolver.  But when Buddy goes over to the body it’s the federal agent that Popeye disliked the most.  Popeye ignores the gravity of what he’s just done and says he knows Charnier is in the room and charges in.  We hear a shot ring out and the scene ends.

Text on the screen tells us that only a couple of criminals served time and even that wasn’t for more than a few years.  Doyle and Russo were transferred out of the narcotics division and reassigned.  Charnier was never caught and was believed to be back in France.

As noted above this movie suffers from being a product of early nineteen seventies film-making.  New York City at that time period was a pretty gritty place.  At best, Popeye Doyle is a flawed hero but more accurately he is an anti-hero.  But his cowboy approach to police work is fast-paced and riveting.  Hackman and Scheider have a good chemistry as cop buddies.  And without a doubt, the chase scene is a must-see experience.  On a personal note I grew up in the area where Popeye Doyle lived and where the chase scene took place.  I can attest that only a heavily armed individual with a death wish could live in the Marlboro Projects back in the 1970s with no fear for life or limb.    And if someone tried to drive down 86th Street in the way represented by the movie’s chase scene the body count would have been truly noteworthy.

I recommend the movie to all fans of action movies and crime dramas.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – SF&F Movie Review – EEGAH!

EEGAH!  (also known as; “EEGAH! The Name Written In Blood”)

A 1962 schlock sci-fi movie apparently shot on a budget in the double digits. It is notable for three things; first, being one of the 50 worst movies ever made. Second, introducing us to Richard Kiel who went on to star as the giant alien in the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”, and as the melancholy villain/henchman Jaws in the James Bond franchise. Lastly, it proudly introduced America to the dune buggy, a sort of hot rod with “tires filled with water for traction” meant to climb desert sand dunes. If you ever watched the cartoon Speed Buggy as a child, you’ll get the drift.

The comely Marilyn Manning plays the beautiful damsel and a forgettable Arch Hall, Jr as the hero with a DA haircut and a poorly recorded singing voice.

Kiel was the only decent actor in the lot and he played well considering what he was given to work with. I love the movie as I love all scholcky sci-fi movies, the worse, the better. Arch Hall, Sr drafted his son as the hero and himself played a part in the movie. Senior wrote it and headed the film company.

Poor EEGAH. He somehow survived in a cave from the caveman days to present, along with his mummified family. How he managed to live years in the area around Palm Springs without discovery is a mystery, but the movie glosses over all that. Fumes or something. He is in the road looking for roadkill and is almost hit by the comely heroine, who passes out at the sight of him and accidentally scares him off by honking the horn. An Easter egg is that there are sheep bleating in the background when EEGAH picks up a deer carcass and carries it off. She tells her father, a sort of amateur archaeologist or something, who goes out in a helicopter to be dropped off to look around. The chopper drops him off but that is the last we hear of the chopper. It breaks or something so the hero and heroine ride off in the new Dune Buggy to go look for dear old dad.

Dad is found, the hero sent off, and the heroine captured by the amorous caveman. She’s the best looking things he’s seen in 10,000 years and she smells good, too. The heroine tries to keep EEGAH interested enough in her so that he doesn’t kill them both, while at the same time keeping things from going too far. Pretty much like a date with a fratboy, I guess. She shaves her father for some unknown and inappropriate reason, then EEGAH wants a shave, too. So she shaves him while he tries to make zug-zug with her and eat the shaving cream at the same time. A hilarious scene for me.

At any rate, the hero returns from wherever, gets dad and daughter out of the cave, and there is the predictable chase scene with the three of them running away from EEGAH in the dune buggy back to Palm Springs in time for a pool party which allows the heroine to show off her bikini bod (and a rather good, one, too), then to change into a form fitting sheath dress for a later party. Poor EEGAH comes to town looking for his love and instead gets into a comical series of adventures with civilization which were apparently stolen straight from the caveman scenes in Dinosaurus, another sci-fi movie from two years earlier. Then he crashes the pool party, whips all the fratboys, tries to run off with his lady love like a good caveman will do although he carries her instead of dragging her off by the hair. But the cops arrive and that is the end of poor EEGAH as he finds out a good club and a 7’2” frame are no match for little metal pellets going 1100 feet per second.

This movie is so loaded with cheese that it’s really a comedy. Marilyn Manning has two other IMDB credits, one of which was the actually good Sadist. Pity, as Ms Manning was very easy on the eyes, especially in a bikini. She could have given me a shave any day, if I had shaved back in 1962. Cuter than Annette Funicello of the Beach Party movie franchise. Mr Kiel went on to do bit parts calling for a tall guy and also got some better roles. As mentioned, he was an alien in Twilight Zone and Jaws in the James Bond franchise. He also played the tall man in the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore. Overall, he has 82 credits on IMDB and had a successful career. Arch Hall Jr has a total of 9 IMDB credits, 6 of them his father’s films. He left acting to become a pilot. What happened to Marilyn Manning after her three movies is not known and I can find nothing really about her. She was a chiropractor’s receptionist in the same building as the film company for EEGAH! and was brought in because of her very good looks.

Overall, EEGAH! Is a hilarious send-up of sci-fi/horror movies. Like Plan 9 From Outer Space, it’s so bad, it’s good.

The Natural – A Movie Review

The Natural is about Roy Hobbs, a midwestern farm boy, played by Robert Redford, who can play baseball better than anyone else who ever played the game.  The story is how this phenomenon of a ball player meets his fate and learns that life is more than just success or failure in the arena.

The story is a fairy tale set in the golden age of baseball, the 1920s and 1930s.  Roy lives on the family farm with his father who encourages him to become a baseball player telling Roy that he has a great gift.  In a quick sequence of scenes, his father dies of a heart attack, then lightning strikes the old tree in his front yard and Roy uses the lightning hardened core of the wood to carve out a baseball bat that he inscribes with the name, “Wonder Boy” complete with jagged lightning bolt symbol and finally he has a farewell tryst with his childhood sweetheart Iris (played by Glenn Close) whom he promises to call for and marry once he is established in Chicago.

On his train ride to try out for the Chicago Cubs, Roy meets a famous baseball reporter named Max Mercy (played by Robert Duvall) and Babe Ruth (or a look-alike stand-in for him called the “Whammer”) whom he strikes out on three pitches in a field near where the train is stopped for refueling. He also attracts the attention of a femme fatale named Harriet Bird who was following the Whammer as part of her insane mission to shoot great athletes with silver bullets.  When the train reaches Chicago, Harriet invites Roy to her hotel room where wearing a black veil she asks him if he will be the greatest baseball player of all time.   When he answers yes, she shoots him, then jumps out the window to her death.

Sixteen years later Roy shows up at the home of the Buffalo Knights a last place National League team.  He has been signed to a minimal pay contract to play right field.  We meet the manager Pop Fisher (played by Wilford Brimley) and learn that Pop will lose his share of the team ownership to his dishonest partner, “The Judge” (played by Robert Prosky) unless the Knights win the pennant that year.  At first the old rookie is dismissed by Pop and rides the bench, but finally Roy gets his chance and shows the Knights that he is their ticket to compete for the pennant.  On his first at bat Fisher prophetically tells Hobbs to knock the cover off the ball, and he does just that.  By the time the remnant of the ball is thrown back into the infield it’s just a bunch of thread and Roy is the hero the Knights need to spark them.  He goes on a streak hitting home runs almost at will.  The Knights are inspired by him and they all start wearing a lightning bolt on their sleeves in sympathy with his Wonder Boy logo.  They climb out of the cellar and into contention for the pennant.  Now Fisher’s niece, Memo Paris (played by Kim Basinger) comes on to Roy and introduces him to her “friend,” Gus Sands (played by Darren McGavin wearing some kind of glass eye on his left eye), a professional gambler who uses Memo’s attentions to distract ball players from their play on the field and thereby wins him bets.  Between the two of them they distract Hobbs with a frantic nightlife to the point where his game falls apart and the Knights start sinking in the standings again.

But then fate and the strange magic that surrounds Roy steps in again.  On a road trip to Chicago Iris Gaines shows up at the game.  She’s heard about Roy’s emergence in the Major Leagues and wants to see him.  Unbeknownst to Roy she is sitting in the stands watching the game.  After another disappointing game is almost lost, Roy comes up to bat for the last time and on impulse Iris stands up in front of her seat in the bleachers and somehow, mystically, Roy at the plate senses something and it energizes him.  He hits a colossal home run that smashes the enormous glass face of the centerfield clock.  Looking up into the stands he tries to see her but the glare of the reporters’ flash bulbs blinds him.  But later she gets a note to him and they meet after the game at a coffee shop.  They talk about their lives and how fate separated them.  They are obviously still in love but they seem almost resigned to their separation.  As she’s getting into a cab, he asks her to come to the game.  She says she can’t because she has to work but he tells her again to come.

In this next game he hits four home runs and it’s the beginning of a resurgence for the Knights.  After the game he goes to Iris’s apartment and they talk some more and we find out she has a fifteen-year-old son (whose father lives in New York).  Things remain unresolved and Roy leaves to continue the road trip in Boston.

With Roy back in the swing, the Knights tie for first place but this doesn’t suit the plans of Memo, Gus, the reporter Max Mercy and the Judge.  They are all committed financially to the Knights losing the pennant.  So, Memo invites Roy over to a swank party where various inducements are pitched to convince Roy to throw the pennant race.  He refuses and shortly after Memo feeds Roy some kind of hors d’oeuvre he has a gastric attack and is rushed to the hospital.  He misses the remaining games of the regular season and now the pennant depends on a final playoff game.  While in the hospital the attending doctor tells Roy that the bullet that he was shot with sixteen years ago (a silver bullet) had worked itself loose and was recovered while they pumped the poison out of his stomach.  And the doctor tells him that the lining of his stomach has been seriously degraded and he shouldn’t play ball anymore for fear of a fatal rupture of his stomach.

The same day Memo visits him and pleads for him to skip the playoff game promising that Gus will pay him off for it.  Roy refuses.  Max Mercy threatens Roy with exposing the scandalous details of the murder suicide attempt that Harriet Bird perpetrated on him.  Roy refuses to quit.  That night the Judge shows up and attempts to bribe him with twenty thousand dollars to throw the game.

The next day, before the game, Roy goes to the Judge’s office and in front of Gus and Memo, he throws the money back at the Judge.  Gus calls him a loser and says it won’t matter, that the Knights will lose anyway.  And the Judge reveals that he already has another key player who will ensure that the Knights lose.  Memo grabs a pistol out of the Judge’s desk and fires a round into the floor but before anything else can happen Roy takes the gun from her and throws it away as he leaves.

The game goes poorly because Roy is badly hurt and as it turns out the Knight’s pitcher is secretly throwing the game.  Roy calls time out and confronts the pitcher on the mound and he relents.  But by the end of the eighth inning the Knights are down several runs.  Up in the stands Iris is desperate to help Roy so she sends a message to him letting him know that her son is at the game with her and that Roy is his father.

In the climactic at bat, with men on base and Roy as the potential winning run, the opposing pitcher is replaced with a young phenom from Nebraska and even Wonder Boy is broken in half hitting a foul ball off his incredible speed.  And at last with a full count and everything on the line Roy hits the fast ball down the middle of the plate so hard that it’s seen driving straight through the enormous out field lighting display used for night games.  In fact, once the first light is struck all the rest of the lights explode in an extended chain reaction that continues until well after Roy has rounded the bases to win the game and the pennant.  The last scene of the game shows the home run ball continuing through and past the lights, still rising.  The scene shifts to daylight and a baseball is caught by Iris’s son in a farm field and then he throws it back to Roy.  And Iris is in the dress of a farmer’s wife and they all live happily ever after.

 

The Natural was released in 1984.  That was an amazing year.  Reagan’s re-election was a high-water mark for this country in a lot of ways.  After the hopelessness of the Jimmy Carter presidency there was incredible optimism and enthusiasm by the end of the first Reagan term.  The Natural fit that era.  It could not be made today.  It’s too optimistic and has no moral ambiguity.  The characters are clearly either good or evil.  That would never work today.  Granted, it is also ridiculously sentimental and improbable.  But fairy tales usually are.  The soundtrack by Randy Neuman has some themes that are used during some of the more stirring baseball scenes that are reminiscent of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for The Common Man and are remarkably dramatic.

Tastes, of course, differ.  I could see some people finding the Natural not nuanced enough, almost cartoonish.  It’s true.  It’s a fairy tale.  How can a man slay a tremendous monster?  Impossible.

I like the Natural.  It cheers me up.  Give it a try if fairy tales interest you.