Dead of Night – An OCF Classic Movie Review

“Dead of Night” is a 1945 British film that consists of a group of characters thrown together in a home and each tells a supernatural story.  Then these characters turn out to be the subject of another character’s dream.  And finally, the whole story turns out to be part of an endless recursive dream nightmare, a dream within a dream, within a dream like the images produced by two mirrors facing each other.  The only actor I recognized was Mervyn Johns who played Bob Cratchit in the 1951 movie Scrooge.

The stories include a young girl meeting the ghost of a boy who was murdered a century ago in the old house where the girl is visiting.  Another story involves a race car driver who while recovering from a crash has a vision of a hearse driver inviting him into the coffin.  Later he sees the same man as a bus conductor inviting him to board the bus.  He backs away and as he watches the bus drive off and crashes killing everyone aboard.  A third story involves a bedroom mirror possessed by a murderous spirit.  The fourth story is a comical golf ghost story.  And the final story is about an evil living ventriloquist dummy.

Back in the underlying scene the character who recognizes the other characters from his dream commits a murder and then somehow finds himself inside the five stories we have just witnessed in a mish-mash of the stories until finally he awakes in his own bedroom.  His wife consoles him for having another nightmare.  He then receives a phone call that sends him to the house where the earlier story takes place.  And the whole thing circles round to the introductory scene.

Despite the theatricality of some of the scenes the movie works.  Of course, it’s all ridiculous but the atmosphere of the movie is claustrophobic enough to produce the requisite discomfort in the audience that makes a ghost story work.  Admittedly the golf story is a bit of a distraction from this mood but there are enough creepy moments and characters to make this movie a success.  I’ll have to say that the fact that the cast look like ordinary people and lack the movie star good looks of an American production actually goes a long way to aiding the illusion we are inside the story with them.

Like many British films from the middle of the 20th century the story had to depend on a good script and competent actors instead of expensive sets and special effects to immerse the viewers in the story.  And because of that this movie still works as well today as it did back then.  And it stands up after repeated viewing.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  The British love a good ghost story and this one has several.  Dead of Night probably won’t work for those who depend on comic book special effects to tell a supernatural story.  But if you have an imagination you may like this one.

King Kong – An OCF Classic Movie Review

King Kong follows in the tradition of books and movies that have explorers wandering into uncharted territories and finding wonders never before seen.  One of the sources for these movies was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel, “The Lost World.”  In this story adventurers travel to a plateau in the Amazon jungle and discover a land that time forgot, inhabited by living dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.  A silent film version of The Lost World was made in 1925 and the stop motion animation by Willis O’Brien in that film was the precursor to what O’Brien would do in King Kong.

The plot of King Kong follows the adventures of intrepid adventurer and film maker Carl Denham, played by Robert Armstrong.  Denham has made his name by travelling to primitive locales and filming the wild animals of these areas.  Lions and rhinos and other exotic creatures have been his subjects but his financial backers say he must add a pretty girl to his movies or the public just won’t care and won’t pay to see his movies.

So, for his next film he recruits a pretty young woman named Ann Darrow played by Fay Wray.  He finds her broke and hungry on the streets of Manhattan and convinces her to go along on his sea voyage to make his film.  Once he convinces her he’s on the level she agrees and the action moves to the ship “Venture” and we meet Captain Englehorn and his colorful crew including first mate Jack Driscoll who will be the romantic interest for Ann Darrow.

Once on-board Denham reveals the details of the expedition.  He has obtained a map locating an uncharted island inhabited by natives that live on one side of a cyclopean wall that protects them from some nameless terror.  Denham intends to go to the island and discover the reality behind the story.  During the voyage Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow fall in love and he repeatedly expresses his unhappiness with her being involved in the dangerous business of the expedition.

When they reach the island, the natives are in the middle of a ceremony to offer up one of their women as a “bride for Kong.”  The natives see Ann and offer to buy her as a substitute for their bride.  Denham and the crew return to the Venture and say they will return the next day to negotiate with the tribe to film the secrets of the island.

But during the night the natives row over to the Venture in their outriggers and secretly kidnap Ann.  Eventually the crime is discovered and Denham, Englehorn and especially Driscoll mount a rescue mission taking most of the crew along and their guns, ammunition and the gas bombs that Denham stocked to handle large animals.

Meanwhile we find out what being the “bride of Kong” entails.  The natives bind Ann’s arms to two pillars located outside of the wall that protects the village.  They then sound a huge gong and out of the jungle stalks a sixty-foot-tall gorilla.  This is Kong and instead of killing and eating his “bride” he is fascinated by her.  And despite her continuous blood curdling screams he gently frees her from the pillars and carries her away into the jungle in his hand as if she were a toy.

Denham and his men show up just as Kong leaves with Ann.  They split up with Denham and Driscoll taking half the men and following after Kong.  Captain Englehorn remains in the village with his men to guard the gate against the natives interfering with their escape.

Once in the jungle the rescue party discover that Kong is just one of many monsters to contend with.  They run into a Stegosaurus that requires a gas bomb and a hail of bullets to kill.  Next, they are attacked by a Sauropod as they cross a lake on a raft that they’ve built.  Several of their party are killed by the giant beast.

Meanwhile Kong is having troubles of his own.  He meets up with a Tyrannosaurus and battles the reptile to the death.  At one point the tree that Kong has left Ann in is knocked over by the titanic brawl between the two giants.  But afterwards Kong moves on with the girl in hand.

Finally, the rescuers catch up with Kong as he crosses a ravine on a massive fallen tree trunk.  But when they try to follow Kong lifts the tree and shakes all but two of the men off the trunk where they fall to their deaths.  Jack Driscoll has managed to reach the far side where Kong is while Denham is trapped on the far side of the ravine.  Once Kong has moved on Driscoll and Denham have a talk from opposite sides of the ravine.  It is agreed that Driscoll will follow Kong and attempt to free Ann while Denham will return to the village and organize another rescue party.

As Kong climbs up to his mountain lair, he battles two other prehistoric creatures.  First a reptile with an elongated neck and tail that makes it almost snakelike, almost strangles Kong but is finally dispatched by the giant primate.  And then once on top of the mountain a Pteranodon tries to fly off with Ann but is killed by Kong.  But while Kong is distracted fighting with the giant flying reptile, Driscoll, who has been tailing Kong, sees his chance and carries Ann on his back down a vine off the top of the mountain.  Kong starts pulling the vine up but when the couple are almost level with Kong they let go of the vine and land in the water below the mountain cliff.

Jack and Ann swim away and then run through the jungle and end up back at the village just in front of Kong.  The crew and natives bolt the gate in the wall but Kong by sheer brute force cracks the huge wooden bolt and forces his way into the village.  There he fights the villagers who use spears to try to kill the giant.  He crushes them with his feet and kills some of them with his teeth.  He runs amok smashing their thatched huts but when he reaches the crew of the Venture, he has a more difficult foe.  Denham throws one of his gas bombs at Kong and the gas renders the huge ape unconscious.

Now Denham conceives of a new idea.  He convinces the crew to help him bind Kong and float him back to New York on a raft behind the Venture.  He tells them that exhibiting Kong in New York will make them all fabulously wealthy.  And that’s what they do.

In the next scene we are at a theater on Broadway and it’s opening night on Denham’s exhibition of Kong.  It begins well with Denham introducing the story then opening the curtain to reveal the giant ape manacled and in leg irons attached to a massive scaffold.  Then he introduces Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow and plays up the angle that Kong’s capture was the result of a Beauty and the Beast story.  Kong was captured because he could not resist coming back to the village for Ann, his beauty.

But when Denham has the photographers come up to the stage to take photos of Kong and his captors the beast becomes enraged by the flashbulbs thinking that Ann was in danger.  He broke his chains and smashed through a brick wall and rampaged through Midtown Manhattan.  Climbing up the wall of a nearby hotel he improbably finds Ann Darrow in one of the rooms and heads uptown to the Empire State Building with Ann in hand.

On the way he kills several passersby and crushes a car or two but most notably he attacks an elevated subway train.  He rips up the track and when the train falls through the whole in the tracks he pummels it with his fist as it lays there like a dying beast while the passengers scream in fear and agony.

Meanwhile Driscoll and Denham know that Kong has Ann.  They alert the authorities and convince them to have fighter aircraft stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in South Brooklyn attack Kong on the top of the Empire State Building.  The four pilots wait until Kong puts Ann down and then commence to strafe him with their machine guns.  One of the pilots ventures too close and his plane is grabbed by Kong and sent to its destruction against the side of the building.  Finally, after many strafing runs Kong succumbs to the bullets.  But before falling to his death he picks up Ann and then puts her down as if saying goodbye.  A final burst of bullets hits him and he tumbles off the side of the tower and to his death on the pavement below.

On the pavement Denham looks on the shattered body of Kong where a policeman declares that, “the planes finally got him.”  But Denham retorts that it was, “Beauty killed the Beast.”

In my opinion King Kong is a fantastic movie.  Even with the primitive special effects and improbable plot and eighty-nine years later it is still an exciting and enjoyable adventure.  And in addition to the adventure, the liveliness of the characters is noticeably superior to the typically depressed and inert nature of modern characters.  Even in the depths of the Great Depression there is a positivity that pervades the actions of the characters that reaches the audience.  In every crisis of the story Denham and Driscoll use brains and bravery to win the day.  This was the American spirit that saw that generation weather the Great Depression, fight World War II and build the greatest country on the face of the earth.  This movie is highly recommended.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 19 – A Private Little War

Let me just start by saying that this episode is so awful that you must see it.  It’s marvelously bad.

When first join our heroes, McCoy is rooting around on his knees in the foothills of Los Angeles.  Spock and Kirk were nearby discussing the peaceful inhabitants of the planet (I suppose Angelinos) and Kirk’s earlier visit to the planet as a young officer.  Suddenly they notice that one tribe with fake black hair is ambushing with another tribe with fake blond hair.  And the attackers have flintlock rifles while the rest of the planet is still using bows and arrows.  And most importantly the man about to be shot is Kirk’s old friend Tyree.  Rather than use his phaser (and disobey the prime directive) Kirk throws a rock at the rifleman and spoils his shot.

Hilarity ensues as Kirk and Spock flee back to McCoy while being pursued by the tribesmen.  Finally, one manages to shoot Spock in the back and they barely have time to beam up to the Enterprise before being finished off by the black wig guys.  Back on the ship McCoy and his esteemed colleague Dr. M’Benga who luckily is an expert at Vulcan physiology, are able to stabilize Spock’s vital signs but his life hangs in the balance as space age medicine is reduced to watching as the self-healing capabilities of Spock’s mind are left to repair the damage.

Kirk wisely decides not to hang around for that snooze fest and instead beams down to the planet with McCoy and determine if the Klingons that have been seen in orbit are responsible for the advanced weaponry (primitive firearm) that Kirk observed earlier.  Kirk’s plan is to speak to his old friend Tyree who is chief of the blond wig tribe and also an embarrassing pacifist.  But when they approach the village they are attacked by, and I kid you not, a man in a gorilla suit that’s been bleached white.  And if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, they glued a horn on its head and put a row of huge spines running down its back.  The gorilla man tosses McCoy away and then starts gnawing on Kirk’s shoulder while he writhes in pain.  Eventually McCoy comes to and blasts the gorilla with his phaser.

But now we find out that this is no ordinary albino, horned gorilla but the much more dangerous albino, horned, venomous gorilla.  Now here is the first Shatner Mockery bonanza.  Kirk is dying of the venom and he starts shivering and generally spassing out in an hilarious manner.  This is some serious bad acting.  Then we get to the village and find that Tyree’s wife, Nona, is a witch woman and can cure the deadly bite of the albino, horned, venomous, gorilla.  Nona is played by Nancy Kovack, a highly attractive young actress who has been squeezed into a pair of skin tight, leather hip huggers and the traditional gorilla fur bodice.

Meanwhile back on the ship Spock is in a coma.  Dr. M’Benga tells Nurse Chapel that at a certain point Spock would begin to awaken and whatever he asked her to do she must do it.  When Spock wakes, he tells Chapel to slap him in the face hard, over and over again.  At first reluctant, but after additional demands from Spock she starts slapping him ringingly and seems to warm to her work.  Scotty walks in and restrains her bodily but just then Dr. M’Benga arrives and finishes off the face slapping.  Successfully slapped silly Spock makes a full recovery.

Anyway, Nona is disillusioned with the pacifism of her husband Tyree and wants him to get Kirk to provide phasers to allow Tyree to become the great leader of the blond wig nation.  In exchange for the promise of advanced weapons she agrees to cure Kirk.  This involves her cutting her hand and placing it on the bite while gyrating and undulating on top of Kirk in a highly humorous display.  Kirk is cured and later on Nona drugs Kirk to get his phaser.  But another albino, horned, venomous gorilla shows up and to save herself from the gorilla she rolls around on the ground screaming for Kirk to help.  But the drug has doofed him out and it takes almost two minutes of rolling on the ground before he gets around to disintegrating the gorilla.  But for his trouble all he gets is a large jagged rock smashed against his skull by Nona as she steals his phaser.

She has decided to switch sides and take up with the more aggressive and obviously more manly chief of the black wig tribe.  She finds a few black wigs wandering around and tells them to take her to their leader.  But they are so excited by the tight pants that they start pawing at her.  Just then Kirk, McCoy and Tyree show up.  Thinking that Nona had led them into a trap they stab her to death and then proceed to get their clocks cleaned by Kirk and to a small extent Tyree.  Now that Nona is dead Tyree sees the light of day and tells Kirk to get him a bunch of rifles.  This fits in with Kirk’s plan to supply the blond wig guys with exactly the same weapons as the Klingons provide to the black wig guys.  He explains that his theory is based on the balance of power that existed between the East and West during the cold war and how that prevented total war.  He tells a skeptical McCoy that he doesn’t like the solution but that it is the only way to prevent catastrophic defeat by one side.  Then it mercifully ends.

What a mess.  The wigs, the monster suit, Shatner’s bad acting, the embarrassing scenes with the monster, the embarrassing scenes with Nona, the embarrassing scenes with Nurse Chapel, Dr. M’Benga’s name.  Really the only positive thing the episode has is Nona’s outfit.  But this is a Shatner mockery bonanza.  I score this episode 4 // 10.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 18 – The Immunity Syndrome

This is the one about the planet sized amoeba that wants to eat the Enterprise.  When we come in the Enterprise is heading for an R&R shore leave to compensate them for some extreme duty they’ve been performing.  Kirk gives a lecherous leer at one of his female yeomen who is passing by.

But suddenly Spock suffers a spasm and upon being interrogated by Kirk he tells the bridge onlookers that he telepathically experienced the death of the four hundred plus Vulcans aboard the Star Fleet ship blah blah blah.  Kirk sends Spock to sick bay for McCoy to harass Spock over his inexplicable extra sensory perception across light years of distance.

Meanwhile Star Fleet preempts the shore leave and tells Kirk to investigate the loss of the Vulcan star ship and the mysterious silence of a solar system nearby.  So, the Enterprise investigates and finds that the solar system is dead.  And in the path of the missing Vulcan ship they find an inexplicable black zone in space.  And of course, since they’re idiots, they fly into it.  Now they’re trapped in the zone and can’t get out.  They’re pulled toward the center of the zone and just for good measure, the zone is a negative energy field where both the ship’s energy and the humans’ life force are being slowly depleted.  Kirk becomes irritable and fatigued and starts snapping at Spock and Scotty because they can’t provide much information on what is happening or how to escape.  Finally, they see what is at the center of the black zone.  There is an 11,000-mile long amoeba that Spock informs them is made of protoplasm.  Oh, come on!

So now Spock and McCoy bicker over which of the two of them should be sent in a shuttle craft into the nucleus of the cell to provide scientific info on the organism and then die tragically as the creature absorbs him.  Kirk agonizes embarrassingly then picks Spock to go.  Spock sends a garbled transmission in which the key word to describe how to destroy the creature is unintelligible.  Now Spock is dying in the amoeba and Kirk is inspired by McCoy’s maunderings about how the Enterprise is like a germ inside the cell to think of the word antibody which for some reason makes him believe that Spock had said antimatter would destroy the cell.

They put an antimatter bomb inside the nucleus and as the timer is running, they beat a pathetically slow retreat due to their low power reserves.  They detect Spock’s shuttle craft and grab it with a tractor beam.  Spock calls them and warns them that wasting power to save him is too risky.  McCoy tells him to shut up and allow them to rescue him.  Spock replies, “Thank you Captain McCoy.”  They run out of power right before they escape the cell membrane but the bomb throws them clear including Spock’s shuttle craft.  Kirk breathes a sigh of relief and begins to contemplate the debauches he will commit on his shore leave.

Okay, a planet sized blob of protoplasm.  I could be wrong but wouldn’t gravity render all but an outer layer of such a mass into nothing but steam and some trace elements?  Couldn’t it have been something like a cell but compounded of materials that could possibly have existed on such a scale?  Ah, who am I kidding, this is Star Trek, anything goes.

So, peevish low-energy Kirk is mildly amusing.  Spock and McCoy bickering over who is the likelier sacrifice in the shuttle craft is sort of fun.  And there is a giant amoeba on the screen for part of the show.  Let’s be kind and call this a 7 // 3.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 17 – A Piece of the Action

Another comedic episode!  The Enterprise travels to a world that was visited a century earlier by an early human space vessel that never returned to Earth.  And since the world is almost a hundred light years from Earth, the radio messages from the original flight have just reached Earth.  Now Kirk must determine whether the earlier contact has had any detrimental impact on the inhabitants.

They contact the planet and are instructed by a local leader named Bela Oxmyx where to transport for a meeting.  When Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive they are taken prisoner by Oxmyx’s men who are dressed as prohibition-era gangsters and armed with Thompson machine guns.  While traveling to Oxmyx’s office they are waylaid by a carload of rival gangsters who spray machine gun fire at them.  We are shown that this world is a replica of 1920’s America and organized as a constant war of gangs fighting it out for supremacy.  When they get to Oxmyx’s headquarters we find out that the earlier ship had left a book on 1920’s gang history and the inhabitants of this world have adopted it as a textbook on how to organize their society.  Oxmyx demands that Kirk provide him with a supply of phasers to allow him to conquer all his enemies and take over the whole planet.  Kirk refuses and the three of them are taken prisoner.

After that the story is a series of escapes and captures by Kirk, Spock and McCoy from Oxmyx and his rival, Jojo Krako, as they attempt to figure out a plan to repair the damage done to this world’s culture.  Eventually by using a show of force with the Enterprise’s phaser weapon set on a wide area stun setting Kirk convinces the mob bosses that they are outmatched and must knuckle under to the Federation.  He sets up Oxmyx as the head boss with Krako as his lieutenant and ends the violence between the gangs.  And to make it seems legitimate to these criminals he demands 40% of the “action” from the mobsters that will be collected annually by a Starfleet vessel.

Alright so that’s the plot but it’s just an excuse for a costume farce.  And as that it’s enjoyable and somewhat funny.  Once Kirk figures out that he’ll have to deal with the gangsters on their own terms he adopts an awful New York accent and starts using the gangster slang.  “We’ll put the bag on Krako;” “put him on ice;” “we won’t give you the heaters;” and “we’ll give you a piece of the action.”   Once he adopts this persona, even stealing some clothes from the mobsters for himself and Spock, Kirk (Shatner) hams it up and even attempts to get Spock to talk the slang with limited success.  And, of course, these slips by Spock are for laughs which actually work.  Later on, we get Spock critiquing Kirk’s lack of skill driving a manual transmission automobile, which is also kind of funny.  And the other bit is Kirk trying to convey instructions to Scotty over the communicator in this patois.  Inevitably he has to translate it into normal English for Scotty.  But when Scotty finally has one of the mob bosses on the Enterprise, he attempts to use some computer-based research into the period slang by threatening the boss with a pair of concrete galoshes.  The mob boss looks contemptuous and asks him if he means cement overshoes.  Scotty looks crestfallen but gives him his Scottish “aye.”

As I’ve made clear previously, I consider any Star Trek episode that plays it for laughs as a welcome change.  When the characters are actually allowed to make their characters somewhat three-dimensional it provides something to keep our interest.  Nimoy playing Spock playing a gangster is probably as good as Spock is going to get.  Even the very end of the episode goes for laughs.  Back on the ship McCoy admits that he lost his communicator on the planet.  Kirk acts alarmed and says based on this race’s cleverness at reverse engineering things eventually they would come after the Federation and “want a piece of our action!”  There is a fair amount of “Bowery Boys” style fight scenes that give Shatner a chance to embarrass himself but this episode is basically rated based on the success of the comedy.

I’ll call this an 8 // 4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 16 – The Gamesters of Triskelion

Another iconic episode.  Alright let’s get it out of the way right at the beginning.  Ratings must have been fading so they hired a Las Vegas burlesque queen in a very revealing costume to give the show a boost.  And as I remember my adolescent self was not opposed to this aspect of the show at all.  Honestly, she was probably the best-looking babe they ever had on the show.  In terms of acting, well it was Star Trek so really, who cares?

Kirk, Chekov and Uhura (boy that’s an odd combination) are in the transporter getting ready to beam down to planet XYZ123 when suddenly they vanish without the transporter even being energized.  Scotty, Spock and McCoy jabber at each other trying to figure out what happened.

Meanwhile we see Kirk, Chekov and Uhura on a distant planet called Triskelion being assaulted by mismatched gladiators with silly weapons.  The hot looking warrior woman named Shahna is dressed in an aluminum foil bikini and armed with a giant-sized bottle opener.  A caveman in a Fred Flintstone suit is armed with a whip and a net.  A relatively ordinary looking guy in hose and doublet named Lars has a letter opener as his weapon and then there’s this really small old woman who doesn’t do very much and maybe also had a giant bottle opener but since I was watching Shahna most of the time I’m not really sure what the other woman had.

Once the Enterprise crew is subdued by the “thralls,” a weird skinny, bald headed guy in a black robe tells them what’s what.  He is the Master Thrall named Galt.  He runs the gladiatorial games for the “Providers.”  The Providers are disembodied brains living in a cavern a thousand meters below the surface of Triskelion and they spend their pathetic lives capturing beings throughout the galaxy with their powerful transporter beam and betting a currency called quatloos on the fights they organize between the captives.  But since they are disembodied brains that live in a cave what they would do with the quatloos they win is completely meaningless.

Meanwhile back on the Enterprise Spock confirms that the landing party is not on the planet below and finding an energy signature in a cloud decides to head twelve light years in that direction to find the captain and company.  McCoy and Scotty whine and complain about this decision and finally Spock has the best non-Shahna moment in the show when he tells them that since he is in command that he will do as he pleases unless (and hear he lowers his voice so that only the two of them can hear him) McCoy and Scotty intend to start a mutiny.  The two complainers immediately started hemming hawing and denying they had any such idea and fall in line with the plan.

Kirk and company learn the hard way that Galt and the Providers use collars on the necks of the thralls to train and punish disobedience.  They seem to learn that there is no escape and no way to resist.  So, Kirk quickly gets down to business and seduces Shahna with his Shatnerly charms.  He hugs and kisses her and tells her about the stars and Earth and how much he likes her.  But in the next scene he kisses her and then socks her in the jaw to get her key to his cell and make a break with Chekov and Uhura.  And since Providers are omniscient, they are quickly subdued and sentenced to die.

Kirk is now doomed to die but first he asks to meet the Providers face to face.  He is transported into the crappy cave that the Providers live in and berates them for their pathetic existence.  At this point the Enterprise reaches Triskelion and is immediately immobilized by the Providers.  Kirk appeals to the Providers’ gaming blood and proposes a wager.  If he defeats a thrall in single combat, he and his people will go free and the Providers will give freedom and training to the thralls to become independent beings on Triskelion.  If he loses then the whole crew of the Enterprise will become thralls.  The Providers decide instead that he’ll have to fight three thralls.  Take that Kirk!  Kirk dispatches the caveman and Lars but the third guy is only injured so he is replaced by Shahna who is still mad about the sucker punch Kirk gave her earlier.  Finally, Kirk takes away her bottle opener and with Lars’ letter opener at her throat she surrenders.  The Providers turn out to be good sports and keep their word and let the Enterprise go free and agree to turn the thralls into people.

There is a maudlin scene between Kirk and Shahna and after the landing party beams up Shahna gets a short monologue where she talks to the sky and thanks Jim Kirk for showing her the road to female empowerment and possibly less-revealing clothes.

So much to say.  Besides Spock’s mutiny game I think the other stand out comedy was Chekov being cornered in his cage by his selected mate, the old short weird looking woman thrall.  She’s smitten with him and he tries to be civil but he’s obviously weirded out by her appearance and overeager attentions.  It’s very creepy.

This show is just overflowing with Shatner doing his thing.  His shirt has been taken away and has been replaced with a harness that reveals his noticeable weight gain.  He’s leaping around kicking and punching everything in sight.  And of course, his amorous moments with Shahna highlight some of the very corniest acting Bill Shatner ever committed.  But I think what I like best is when Kirk is dismissing the idea of the Providers betting “trifles like quatloos” when human lives were so much more meaningful.  There we see Kirk the negotiator, Kirk the gambler.

So, all in all the girl is very attractive, although her eye makeup looked to be about an inch thick.  The plot was amusing and reasonably clever.  The Shatner mockery value was almost off the scale.  I’ll give this an 8 // 10.

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 15 – The Trouble with Tribbles

Ah, so much to say, so much to say.  The Trouble with Tribbles is a comic episode.  It allows Shatner and the rest of the regulars to ham it up outrageously.  And as it turns out that is the highest and best use of the series.  Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, McCoy, Spock and of course Kirk are provided dialog and space to flesh out their characters with some comic verve.  Finally, something to enjoy.

The plot has the Enterprise summoned by an emergency distress call to Deep Space Station blah blah blah  where they find that there is no emergency but that a space bureaucrat is worried that his space wheat seeds will be sabotaged before it can be delivered to a planet in dispute between Klingons and the Federation.  Kirk is outraged by this high-handed use of a distress call and insults the Under-Secretary of Wheat.  Then Kirk is called up by his boss and told to do what the bureaucrat tells him to do.  Kirk obeys with bad grace and assigns guards to protect the wheat from the Klingons who are on board the space station for rest and relaxation.  The Klingon commander is played by the actor who showed up on the episode, “The Squire of Gothos” as the titular character Trelane.  So Kirk uses the opportunity of the stay at the space station to allow his whole crew to take shore leave on the space station.  Scotty is the only crewman who doesn’t want to take leave but Kirk forces him to go and keep an eye on the rest of the crew and avoid trouble with the Klingons.

A space trader named Cyrano Jones shows up at the space station and among the things he is selling are tribbles.  These are fur balls that purr around humans and hate Klingons.  Jones gives one to Uhura while she is seated at the bar in the space station lounge.  She takes it back to the ship and we find out that tribbles are prolific breeders and within a few days the Enterprise and the space station are both becoming overrun with the fuzzy creatures.

Meanwhile, Scotty, Chekov and some red shirts are having drinks in the lounge when one of the Klingons starts insulting Kirk.  Chekov is incensed and wants to start a brawl with the Klingons but Scotty restrains him explaining that it isn’t important and everyone is entitled to his opinion.  But when the Klingon starts insulting the Enterprise as a ship Scotty punches him in the head and a huge brawl breaks out.  The fight alarms the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and he rants and raves at Kirk about dangerous Klingons and rowdy Federation spacemen and tribbles.  Kirk is annoyed and promises to discipline his crew.

At this point the tribble infestation on the Enterprise becomes a catastrophe.  The tribbles have managed to infiltrate the food production systems and we see the spectacle of Kirk staring at his lunch tray covered with tribbles muttering “my chicken sandwich and coffee” to anyone who will listen.  When Scotty explains that the tribbles have managed to get into the air ducts, Kirk immediately realizes that the space wheat storage bins have air ducts too.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy rush over to the space station and when the storage bins doors don’t open easily Kirk fiddles with it and the overhead bin opens up and pours down hundreds of tribbles onto Kirk.  They’ve eaten all the space wheat and the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat, who was there to witness this debacle, blows a space-gasket and starts heaping abuse and threats on Kirk.  Meanwhile Spock, after first estimating the number of tribbles as something north of a million, observes that many of the tribbles are dead.  Bones then diagnoses the cause of death as a poison that the wheat contains.  A virus has been added to the wheat which renders the eater unable to ingest nutrition and therefore subject to death by starvation.

Using the tribbles’ hatred of Klingons Kirk is able to discover that the  Under-Under-Secretary of Space Wheat is a disguised Klingon and poisoned the space wheat.  This of course shuts up the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and allows Kirk to walk away as the hero.

Finally Kirk returns to the ship and finds it cleared of tribbles and after a lot of hemming and hawing we find out that with the approval of Spock and McCoy, Scotty beamed all the tribbles onto the Klingon battleship just as it was about to warp out of orbit.  His words were, “I beamed them into the engineering section where they’ll be no tribble at all.”

Other than the fact that writer David Gerrold stole the concept of the tribble from Heinlein’s martian flat cats as they appeared in the novel “The Rolling Stones” I wholly approve of this episode.  It is obvious that a comical take on the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise is the only good purpose the show can be put to.

Kirk spends the whole episode outraged about everything.  The Under-Secretary is a truly annoying character.  For once you actually sympathize with Kirk.  The Klingons mock Kirk in front of his crew describing him as a strutting autocrat.  When Scotty tells Kirk about it and further admits that he didn’t bother to defend Kirk from the insults but did become enraged when the ship was insulted Kirk is cut to the quick.  And when the tribbles start discomfiting Kirk at every turn he is irritable and petulant.  This was indeed Shatner’s finest hour on Star Trek.

And Uhura, Scotty, Chekov get much more screen time than on any other episode I can remember.  Uhura gets to play with the tribble and converse with the rest of the crew.  Scotty and Chekov get a barroom brawl scene.  Even Spock gets to ham it up a little.

I won’t quibble about the tribbles.  I’m just going to give this episode a 10  //  10.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 14 – Wolf in the Fold

This is Star Trek in all its cheesy glory.  It starts with Kirk, McCoy and Scotty sitting in a bar leering at a belly dancer.  Apparently, the Enterprise is in orbit around an interstellar red-light district.  Kirk and McCoy are slobbering over each other talking about other dives they want to visit.  Scotty goes for a walk in the foggy night with the belly dancer.

Anyway, the plot, such as it is, revolves around Scotty being found several different times with a woman with a knife sticking in her.  In each case Scotty claims to have amnesia at the moment of the murder.  The police administrator is played by John Fiedler, the little bald mousey character actor known for his work in the movie “Twelve Angry Men” and as the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Piglet.  In order to get to the bottom of the murders the leader of the planet has his wife perform a séance.  She starts moaning and whining about some monstrous deathless evil that kills women and lives off their fear.  But suddenly the lights go out and she screams.  When the lights come back up Scotty is, of course, holding the woman with a knife in her back and her blood on Scotty’s hands.

Eventually we find out that the evil entity was Jack the Ripper and he travelled out into the galaxy as humanity expanded out from Earth.  Based on the clues it is determined that the police administrator is the monster and when discovered he attempts to stab Kirk.  Kirk flips him and disarms him and then punches him in the jaw.  McCoy checks the killer and declares, “He’s dead Jim!”  But the entity leaves the human body and invades the ship computer.  Once in the computer the entity attempts to frighten the crew prior to murdering them.  But Spock sets the computer to figuring the exact value of pi.  Since pi is a transcendental number apparently the futuristic computer can’t handle the chore and malfunctions.  This drives the entity out of the computer and back into his body.  Spock injects the creature with a tranquilizer and then transports him into open space with a wide dispersion thus rendering it harmless.

This episode is wonderfully tacky and even the small touches add to its hokey atmosphere.  When the crew is being tranquilized to avoid feeding the creature on their fear Sulu gets this drunken expression that makes you think he’s about to drool on himself.  And I think the episode set a record for McCoy saying, He’s/She’s dead Jim!”  I counted three.  By the third one he should just have said, “Ditto.”  But above all, Kirk and McCoy in the belly dancing den of iniquity, slavering over the depravity they plan at the next dive they intend to visit is the high point.

I give this a score of   6 // 10.  Shatner’s bad acting lifts this episode to new heights of awful.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 13 – Obsession

Kirk, Spock and some red-shirts are on a planet searching for unobtanium.  Suddenly Kirk starts smelling gas.  Apparently, he recognizes a sickly-sweet smell from eleven years earlier when he was on the USS Farragut and it was attacked by a hemoglobin drinking gas cloud.  During this present mission the cloud kills off all the red-shirts.

This smelly gas cloud is Kirk’s white whale.  He is feeling guilt over having hesitated firing a phaser that might have saved his Captain’s life back eleven years ago.  By coincidence, the son of the late captain, Ensign Garrovick, is in the Enterprise’s crew and Kirk takes this young man down to the planet’s surface for another chance to kill the cloud.  Garrovick hesitates for two seconds when surprised by the cloud and more red-shirts are killed.  Kirk blames Ensign Garrovick for the death of the men.  Now the creature flees the planet and the Enterprise pursues at Warp 8.  Eventually the creature turns to fight.  Phasers and photon torpedoes do nothing and the creature manages to enter the Enterprise where it kills a few more men.  The creature attacks Spock but his copper-based globin is inedible.  Suddenly the creature leaves and heads off at Warp speed.  Kirk figures it’s going back to where it attacked the Farragut and that it’s going to spawn a multitude of offspring.  Spock tells Kirk to use an “ounce of anti-matter” to destroy the creature.  Kirk and Garrovick become bait for the creature and at the last second, they are transported away and the anti-matter is unleashed.  The blast interferes with the transporter and Spock and Scotty barely get the two men to rematerialize.

This episode features Kirk obsessed with destroying the creature that killed the captain that he admired coming out of the Academy.  Bones and Spock get to question Kirk’s judgement but eventually understand the danger of this creature.  There is a scene where Ensign Garrovick and Kirk fight over who would stay last while the creature is lured to the anti-matter.  Several times in the episode Kirk loses his temper.  This is a so-so episode.  Let’s call it a 5  //  4.

Warbound – Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles – by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction-Fantasy Book Review

Warbound is the third and the (currently) final volume of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series.  And as such it ties together the threads from the earlier volumes, Hard Magic and Spellbound and provides the resolution of the story lines for the main characters Jake Sullivan and Faye Vierra.  These two are powerful “actives,” possessors of magic abilities in one or several categories working for the Grimnoir Society.  Jake is a Gravity Spiker with the ability to alter gravity at will while Faye is a Traveler, someone who can teleport from one location to another.  Both have been tested during the crises in the earlier books when they faced off first against the Iron Guard actives of the Japanese Imperium and afterward against rogue actives in the US intelligence agencies that were attempting to blame the Grimnoir Society for magical attacks by other forces.

But now the whole planet is threatened by an alien creature that preys on the entity that produces the magic.  The knowledge of what is at stake produces some strange alliances that alter the dynamic that the earlier books portrayed.  And despite the war footing that the book details Correia is able to mix just enough humor and other character driven interest to allow the pleasant juggling of a large number of characters.  One of the features of this historical fantasy world is the introduction of historical figures often possessing magic themselves.  Blackjack Pershing, J. Edgar Hoover, Buckminster Fuller, even FDR make longer or shorter appearances in the books.

I won’t go into a detailed plot summary because I don’t want to spoil the story.  Suffice it to say I’m giving it a very good rating.  And I’ll finish off by saying a few things about Correia’s story writing.  Without a doubt Correia is one of the best sf&f authors around today.  Going beyond that I’ll say he compares well with the older authors back in the heyday of the genres.  He writes good heroes and good villains.  He has a good ear for dialog and he can even inject humor into the story in a natural way.  One of his favorite types is a variant of the competent man but instead of Heinlein’s omnicompetent type Correia’s hero is usually a working- or middle-class guy who is good with his fists and guns and adheres to a code of conventional morality.  And as an added bonus his heroes are actually likable.  Even his villains are interesting.

And there’s one final bonus with Correia that is refreshing to see in today’s social justice infused entertainment industry.  There won’t be a single character thrown in just to earn intersectional social justice brownie points from the pink science fiction crowd.  Just regular people with super powers fighting super villains without having to worry if any of them is being oppressed by the really evil cis-het white man.

So far, I’ve read all Correia’s Monster Hunter books and now the Grimmoir books.  I’ve also enjoyed his comical Tom Stranger audiobooks and I follow his website for his take on the latest outrages by the pink science fiction scolds.  Next, I’ll start his epic fantasy series “Saga of the Forgotten Warrior” without bothering to check reviews because I’m already sure it’ll be excellent.  And in today’s science fiction and fantasy environment that’s pretty rare.