“Mystery Street” is a 1950 black and white film noir that I decided to write about because it’s one of very few old Hollywood movies shot in the Boston area. The plot is the story of Vivian Heldon, a girl who works at a low-class bar called the Grass Skirt. She’s gotten pregnant by a married man and is trying to get him to pay for her child. She calls up the father Joshua Harkley who lives down on Cape Cod and tells him to meet her at her bar. When he doesn’t show up and leaves his phone off the hook, she convinces a drunk to let her drive him home. But instead, she drives sixty miles to Harkley’s town, Barnstable and calls him to force a showdown. Because the drunk (Henry Shanway) is starting to sober up and complain she abandons him on the side of the road and drives off with his car to the rendezvous with Harkley on a lonely road. Harkley shoots her and dumps her naked body in the ocean and drives the car into a canal.
Three months later Heldon’s skeleton washes up on the beach. The local police Lieutenant Peter Morales, played by the inimitable Ricardo Montalban, goes to the Harvard Medical School’s crack forensic expert, Dr. McAdoo to try and discover whose bones were found and how she died.
Using estimated date of death and a photograph of the skull on a transparency they superimpose it over each photograph of a missing woman from that time period and are able to determine that Vivian Heldon was the probable victim. Also, they find the bones of her unborn child and a broken rib that showed traces of the metal from a bullet and they deduce that Vivian was murdered. Next, they find from the bar patrons that Vivian left the bar with a man driving a specific color and model car. Looking into stolen car records for that date they find Henry Shanway. Once the bar patrons identify Shanway in a police line-up he is arrested for the murder. Also, Shanway’s car is pulled out of the water sealing his fate.
After that there is a whole bunch of interaction between Vivian’s landlady and the murderer culminating in her stealing the murder weapon, a service .45 automatic that she found in his office desk drawer. Meanwhile Dr. McAdoo figures out that based on which rib was hit, it was possible that the bullet was still embedded in the car. Finding the bullet they then try to find the gun to cinch the story. But Shanway doesn’t have a gun. This disturbs Morales who then starts checking the rest of Heldon’s contacts to see if any of them had a gun. Of course, when he checks Harkley’s desk the gun isn’t there. But this alerts Harkley that the landlady has stolen his gun. He goes to her home and chokes her until she agrees to tell him where she hid it, a storage locker at the train depot. But just then the police show up and to keep her quiet Harkley hits the landlady on the head, knocking her out and eventually killing her. Harkley escapes but Morales finds the key to the locker and decides to stake out the depot and find out who tries to get the gun. After a lot of running around a train yard Morales catches Hartley and Shanway is saved from false conviction. Three cheers for forensic medicine and Ricardo Montalban.
This is a solid B movie. The acting is pretty good and the forensic science was state of the art in 1950. But I have to take off points for lack of local authenticity. At one point one of the “locals” pronounces Barnstable as if it sounded like the two words barn and stable. Now admittedly I’m a refugee here in New England with my Brooklyn accent and all, but even I’ve picked up more of the local names than that.
I’ll recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys both old movies and police procedurals.
Living as I do in the mythical New England town of Dunwich, election results take a little longer than they do in the outside world. What with eruptions of elder gods and eldritch horror of nonspecific origin popping up incessantly it takes the election committee quite a lot of time to count the white and black pebbles that we use for voting purposes. I mean when they’re distracted, they lose count and have to start all over. And then there are the disqualifications. If one of the candidates is discovered to have webbed fingers or toes or gills during the mandatory examination, then everything has to stop while the unfortunate individual is burned at the stake or crushed under a door stacked with large smooth stones. Lately they’ve switched completely to door crushing because of the greenhouse gases emitted by the stake burning procedure. Time marches on. Of course, the runner-up is glad, as long as he isn’t similarly non-conforming.
Well, the point is we finally have our results and they are pleasing. The stupid party was resoundingly re-elected and the evil party was gratifyingly defeated. I performed an exorcism rite complete with incantations from the Necronomicon (or was it Comic-Con?) and rendered all attacks by the power of darkness null and void (in other words I paid up my property taxes). And now I can expect to enjoy another two years of quiet, efficient, demonic public service by the good people of the stupid party as they do their best to hold the powers of the evil party at bay.
I intend to continue attending the local Republican Party meeting and find out if I can get involved in some less painful volunteer services. I’d like to work with the election committee and find out how the sausages get made. And in fact, I’d also like to find out what other functions I can help out around town. I may be trapped here in Dunwich for a few years so I might as well make the best of it.
Who knows, maybe I’ll become an adjunct lecturer at Miskatonic University in advanced perpetual motion engineering. We all have to do our best to save the planet. After all, both Greta Thunberg and Cthulhu are depending on us.
So, I finally went to a meeting of the Republican Party in my town. Being that the local election is in two weeks it was a pretty long meeting, two hours. But it was fairly interesting to see what it consists of. Except for asking a question of a guest speaker who’s running for higher state office I kept my mouth shut and listened. My town is unusual in New England in that the Republicans are the dominant party. So, it was interesting to see what they saw as the correct strategy to take concerning attacks in the local press on their policies. It was actually heartening to hear them speak rationally about things like mask mandates and vaccination requirements. Being embedded in a blue state means that certain things like school health requirements are off the table but it was extremely encouraging that we were sitting closely together in a conference room without any mask nonsense at all. People even shook hands without naked fear showing on their faces.
There were a number of jokes about the crazier woke complaints that some townspeople had levelled against the town government. One of my favorites is the calls for all Republicans to resign to atone for the January 6th “insurrection.” The selectmen were debating whether they should address this complaint by assuring the town that they were indeed in New England on January 6th and doing their jobs. Inwardly I was thinking that the way to answer something like this would be with snarky humor but I kept quiet. No need to get myself labeled as an unserious person, yet.
I was interested to hear that the state government is policing speech at the municipal level. They have outlawed the use of the word “character” when the town describes itself in writing. They were told that was a dog whistle for “white.” Amusingly the town folks were looking for synonyms for the word character to allow them to work around this silliness. I found this approach to short circuiting the typical New England virtue signaling exemplary. Follow the letter of the law and defy the spirit of it.
There were many mundane items having to do with budget and personnel and I could tell there were a lot of things being discussed that had a lot of history and back story that I wasn’t privy to. But it was interesting to see how the various personalities and positions asserted themselves in the discussions. And even though some of the subject matter was dry I found myself interested in the positions that the various individuals took. The elected officials were extremely anxious that everything possible be done in the short time remaining to shore up their campaigns against Democrat and media attacks. The committee members wanted to make sure that there wasn’t too much spinning around on things that had already been arranged like print and electronic media press releases. Obviously, everyone was looking at things from his own point of reference. But understandable considering what their jobs were.
As I drove away last night, I found myself thinking, “I wonder what will be at the top of the agenda at the next meeting.” I left my e-mail address and phone number on their attendance sheet and I’m sure they’ll contact me to contribute money to their coffers. But so far, I didn’t see anything that told me I shouldn’t find out more about this group. They seemed like intelligent, normal people. And there was not even a hint of human sacrifice being part of their initiation ceremony. Of course, they didn’t declare me dictator for life yet but so far so good.
One should never mock the weather gods in New England. Even if they happen to have blue hair and weigh in at half a ton. Even after tax day you are never safe from snow until the Fourth of July (or is it Juneteenth now?).
And the worst part about it is that even though it’ll mostly melt later on today I have to clear the driveway to allow for safe passage of guests today. Bring out the snow shovel. Oh my aching back. Damn you fat weather girls wherever you are.
Well, I don’t take back a single word of it. If I’m going to have unearthly weather; snow in the summer or flaming meteors of bitumen I want it announced by a cheerful pretty woman who will gracefully point at the green screen and smile her blinding white smile.
So I finished my shoveling and decided to take a few photos of the weirdness.
Now you see it, and now you don’t
Sorry if things are a little slow this weekend with the posts, I’ve been enjoying the New England weather.
This weekend we have been blessed with an early December snow storm. And even though it’s not the first snow of the season this was the first legitimately annoying snow of the year. That’s because it was one of our trifecta storms. It starts with a typhoon of rain, then it shifts to sleet and ends with a good think layer of snow. When you get that combination it is delightfully heavy and certain to cause back ache, heart palpitations and exhaustion. And it requires two separate removal operations. Once the sleet ends and the snow begins in earnest you have to remove the slushy layer before it turns into a bottom layer of rock-like ice. So you spend several hours (depending on the size of your driveway and parking area) shoveling and slinging slush and that is the heaviest snow there is. And unfortunately snow blowers really don’t handle slush very well so this has to be done with the good old snow shovel.
Then you wait until the storm is over and remove the snow. But unfortunately there is always an ice layer at the bottom even after the initial slush removal step so this is never as easy as a dry snowstorm. It rained here on Friday through to Saturday morning. The sleet started early and the snow began at 10 am. I spent about three hours on Saturday slinging slush. The snow was over by Sunday morning and I got to work again and finished up by 2 pm today. Global warming, my foot.
So I’m behind on my writing but I haven’t heard about anymore snow coming anytime soon so I’ll catch up pretty quickly. Maybe the lousy weather is why New Englanders are such perverse creatures. They want to share their misery with everyone and being experts they do a thorough job.
Exhibit A – Wednesday April 15th a beautiful sunny day
A closeup of Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird redecorating one of Camera Girl’s deluxe blue bird apartments in the sky.
Exhibit C Saturday April 18th.
And the punch line as the happy couple take it in the teeth.
The moral of the story? Global warming ain’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Suffice it to say that for the next week or so the photo of the day will include a number of shots of spring flowers covered in show.
I quote this deathless sentiment that George Constanza spoke when thinking of a way to postpone his upcoming nuptials. As evidenced in my recent post of the mallard photo, life is returning to Southern New England. This exhibits itself in a random walk up and down the thermometer and barometer. We’ll have 70 degrees F followed by a foot of snow and back again in dizzying alternation. It’s very much as if a spiteful nature deity is heaping abuse on the home of the staunchest believers in global warming. Of course, we innocent bystanders also suffer but shoveling wet heavy snow is good for the soul. Anyway, without a doubt, spring is in the air. Plants and animals are stirring and even I, your ancient but faithful chronicler of all things interesting to the deplorable, is feeling 17% spryer.
So, in the interest of full disclosure I’ll be taking a little trip between the Sixteenth and Twenty First of March. During this interval, I will be both frequently outside of wi-fi range and too occupied with death-defying heroics to post. I will do my best to provide some content but I fear it will be sub-par in both quantity and quality. I apologize in advance and beg your patience. I am hopeful that the trip will provide a goodly stock of interesting photos and narrative. Until then I will endeavor to provide the usual mixture of irascible political opinion, sophomoric parody, self-important book, music and film reviews and general harping on the foibles of human behavior.
And right on queue a foot of snow was dumped on us last night. Apparently snow holds no terrors for the mallards but the weather gods are certainly making it difficult for me to get to work. Guess I’ll just work from home today.
In New England, the end of summer is akin to how it must have felt to the pyramid-building slaves when their break period was about to end. A wonderful but horribly short respite was giving way to endless unimaginable agony. And this cycle would repeat itself until merciful death interceded. It’s just like that.
Summer is breathtakingly beautiful because of the contrast to what follows. It was less than 40◦F here this morning. On the second day of September. Still summer! And it goes rapidly downhill from here. Sure, we’ll have some warm days. Over eighty sometimes. But it’s just a cruel tease meant to highlight just how bad things will soon be. In the last decade or so New England has unleashed a new and terrifying alternative to winter storms. This is where a freezing rain or snow descends on us in October while the trees are still full of leaves. The trees in this condition hold onto much more snow and ice than normally and therefore huge branches and limbs can break off the trees. And that’s how millions of people end up without power for days or even weeks. So, what you have is houses without heat, some without a stove, some without water, which means without toilets. It’s such a joy. So, installing an emergency generator really isn’t an extreme decision. It’s sort of mandatory if you want to eat and drink and stay warm and go to the bathroom and, you know, live.
So, why am I writing about this? Well mostly to let you people living in other parts of the country know how lucky you are. Sure, they have hurricanes down south and earthquakes in the west and tornadoes in between but those only very infrequently effect you. Here we know as sure as night follows day that we will be wet, miserable and cold for eight months of the year, every year until we die or we have the good sense to get the hell out of this purgatorial region.
And why don’t I leave? Ah, I am bound with the strongest and most adamantine of chains, the grandmother/grandchildren bond. If a woman is possessed of an industrial strength maternal instinct (as, sadly, Camera Girl is) then no power in the ‘Verse short of a strategic thermonuclear strike will pry her away from these rugrats.
So here I am. The rollercoaster is at the top of the lift hill and the slow ratchet up is done. We’re staring down but the bottom has not yet dropped out of our stomachs. Here we go.
End of depressing preamble.
So, I’ve got this cool three-day weekend. Some relatives are coming up. I’m going out to take some seasonal photos and I’m bound to hang out with the grandsons too. Plus, the mystery of the disappearing quail needs to be answered. I’ve put out a game camera and hope to catch some photos of them gamboling around in the woods and thickets. And finally, I’m finishing up the available Cowboy Bebop discs from Netflix. I decided to try out another anime title (Ghost in the Shell 2.0) and it just arrived. All in all, it sounds like I’ll be having a very good time.
A very happy and relaxing Labor Day Holiday to all you good folks out there reading OCF. I’ll have more serious stuff right along soon but today just enjoy a good rest and do something fun.