Ransom – A Movie Review and Comparison – Part 2

Ransom – A Movie Review and Comparison – Part 1

In 1996 Ron Howard directed a remake of Ransom.  He cast Mel Gibson and Rene Russo in the leads as Tom and Kate Mullen the parents of a young son Sean.  Tom is the owner of his own airline and a leading member of New York high society.  During an educational event in Central Park at which Kate is a judge Sean is kidnapped while Tom was distracted.

Now we meet the kidnappers.  Maris is a caterer who works for the Mullens.  Brothers Clark and Cubby Barnes and Miles Roberts are small time criminals.  But the mastermind of the gang is Police Detective Jimmy Shaker, played by the great Gary Sinise, who set up the whole crime and uses his knowledge of police procedures to engineer a convoluted ransom transfer.  He has Tom carry the two million dollars to a civic center and jump in a swimming pool to destroy any electronic devices.  Then Tom switches cars and drives to New Jersey while Shaker gives Tom directions over a mobile phone.  During this phone call Shaker answers Tom’s question of why Tom’s family was picked.  Shaker tells him that Tom is a man who buys his way out of trouble.  Tom paid off men to frame a labor leader that was making trouble for Tom’s airline.  From Shaker’s point of view, he sees Tom as a sure thing to pay his son’s ransom.  Then Shaker tells Tom the story of the Eloi and the Morlocks from H. G. Wells’ story “The Time Machine.”  To Shaker the Mullens and the other elites are the Eloi living in the daylight world of wealth and privilege while Shaker and the rest of the Morlocks slave away in the underworld of the poor.  He states that it’s just the nature of things that the cannibalistic Morlocks have to surface from time to time to eat an Eloi.

Tom demands to know how the exchange will lead him to his son to which Shaker replies that when Tom hands the money over to the courier, he’ll be given the address where his son can be found.  But when he arrives at a quarry where the courier takes the money, he is given no address and Tom notices the look of confusion on the courier’s face when the question is asked.  The courier is Cubby Barnes played by Donnie Wahlberg who was the only one of the kidnappers who treated Sean Mullen decently during his captivity.  FBI helicopters chase after Cubby on his ATV and when the agents start rappelling to the ground Cubby fires at them with an automatic weapon.  In answer he is killed by gunfire from the law enforcement agents.

The kidnappers are in disarray after this because Cubby’s identity will make his brother’s identity easy to figure out.  But undaunted, Shaker immediately contacts Tom and begins a second transfer operation.  But Tom has figured out that the kidnappers have no intention of releasing his son.  So instead of proceeding to the drop he tells Shaker to watch Channel 5 on the television for further information.  Tom calls his corporate friends and arranges to be put on the air.  He lays the two million dollars on a table and into the camera he tells the kidnappers and the world that he has no intention of paying the ransom and instead want the two million to be a reward for capturing his son’s abductors.  He gives the kidnappers a way out saying if Sean is returned unharmed, he will withdraw the reward.

Everyone turns against Tom, the FBI agents who have been advising him, his wife Kate and every man on the street who is questioned by the media.  Now Shaker calls him up and threatens to kill Sean if Tom doesn’t pay the ransom.  Tom says he doesn’t believe he’ll return Sean at all.  Now the kidnappers send a note through the housekeeper to Kate to show up late at night in a deserted church to arrange for an exchange.  Kate is attacked by Shaker in disguise who punches her and chokes her before leaving her with Sean’s shirt soaked in blood.

Kate begs Tom to relent but instead Tom goes down to the street and tells the reporters that he is doubling the reward to four million dollars.  Shaker calls up enraged and shouts at Tom that he will kill Sean if Tom doesn’t agree to the ransom immediately.  Tom shouts abuse at Shaker and then he hears a gunshot ring out over the phone.  Kate attacks Tom and slaps him repeatedly and collapses to the floor.  Tom stumbles out onto the penthouse roof and at first seems to be planning to jump but then collapses onto the roof sobbing.  Kate finds her way to the roof and consoles him.

But Shaker fired into the wall.  Sean is alive.  Now Clark Barnes and Miles Roberts are packing their van to leave the scene and Maris is panicked and doesn’t know whether to run or kill herself with a gun she has.  She is romantically involved with Shaker but their bond has been broken by the sordid nature of the crime they are committing.  The only one who isn’t panicking is Shaker.  He’s come up with Plan B.  He calls up the precinct on his radio and tells them that there is a kidnapping at the address they are holding Sean at.  He shoots Clark and Miles as they try to drive off but Maris shoots him in the shoulder.  Shaker returns fire and kills her.  Now Shaker pretends that he discovered the kidnapping and puts himself in line for the four-million-dollar reward.

Sean is returned to his parents traumatized but only slightly injured and the Mullens begin to bring their lives back to normal.  One day Shaker shows up at the Mullens’ home to collect his reward but as Tom is writing out the check, he sees Sean quaking with fear at Shaker’s voice.  Tom realizes what it means but almost immediately afterward Shaker knows that Tom knows.  At this point Shaker’s anger leads him to say he will execute Tom.  But Tom convinces him that they can go to Tom’s bank and have the reward transferred to Shaker’s offshore bank.  Then Tom agrees to fly Shaker to Mexico in his private jet.  While driving to the bank Tom ostensibly calls the airport to set up his flight but actually calls the FBI and tips them off to where he is headed.

Tom and Shaker make the wire transfer at the bank but as they’re leaving some NYPD who have been alerted by the FBI attempt to arrest Shaker.  He shoots two of them and takes off running.  Tom catches him and beats him brutally but Shaker manages to push Tom into traffic where he is shaken up by a passing car.  Now there is a foot race and finally Tom grabs Shaker and throws him through a plate glass window.  Tom retrieves Shaker’s gun and covers him with it.  The NYPD and FBI show up and tell Tom to drop the gun and Shaker to lay on the ground.  Shaker is bleeding profusely from a neck wound from the broken window but he secretly reaches for an ankle holster.  When Tom drops his gun arm to his side Shaker pulls his gun to shoot Tom but is beaten to the draw by Tom and several law-enforcement officers.  Shaker is shot dead and Kate shows up to hug Tom and signal the end of the nightmare.

Wow, that’s a lot of stuff, to stuff into one movie.  And I’ve left out a lot of details.  The FBI Special Agent Lonnie Hawkins played by Delroy Lindo has a role in convincing Kate to stop Tom from offering the reward.  He also is privy to Tom’s perjury in the conviction of the labor leader.  The relationships between the various kidnappers is complicated and volatile.  There are a lot of moving pieces.

It’s a well-crafted movie.  At certain points the various characters border on hysterics but considering the roles and stakes involved the action is reasonable.  None of the characters is blameless but even some of the criminals may make some claims to the viewers sympathy.  I think it’s a good crime drama with a lot of human interest.  I can recommend it as worth seeing.

In the last part of this review I’ll look at the 1956 and the 1996 versions of Ransom to see how they compare and what that comparison might say about the years in which they were made.

Ransom – A Movie Review and Comparison – Part 1

I am as old as hell itself so I remember seeing Ransom in the theater in 1996.  It was a very popular movie and Mel Gibson was a big star back then.  I was dimly aware that the movie was a remake of a film of the same name.  Actually, the original was Ransom!  That exclamation point must have been big news back in 1956.  I’ve since had a chance to see the 1956 version and I intend to review it and then review the 1996 remake and compare them.

Glenn Ford and Donna Reed star as David and Edith Stannard a married couple with a young son named Andy.  They are very wealthy because David and his brother Al own a very successful company.  We see the child and parents in a comical argument caused by Andy “stealing” the boards from under his parents’ bed to build his backyard fort.  We witness the way David dotes on the boy and promises to break away from his busy work to join the boy in his construction project.  The mother and father send the boy off to his school bus and then David heads off to work.  We also meet the major domo of the household servants Jesse Chapman.  He is a Southern Black Christian man, much given to reciting scripture who very seriously attends to the welfare of his employer’s family.

At work we find David contending with his brother Al over whether the company should continue to advance into new product models or wait until more return is collected on the earlier models.  Although the brothers quarrel, they show affection for each other.  Later we see David return home having “stolen” some lumber from a willing construction site foreman and asks his wife where their son is.  She says he is still at school but David informs her that it is past his time.  Immediately the phone rings and Edith hear from a school administrator that a “nurse” from Dr. Gorman’s office took Andy from school to be seen by the doctor.  Now, both frightened by this news, David calls Dr. Gorman and hears his worst fears, that the doctor did not send for the boy.  David calls the police and Chief Backett arrives and sets in motion the police actions.  An electrician sets up a separate phone line and a tape recorder.  And the police set up a trace on the line waiting for a ransom demand over the phone.  At this point a newspaper reporter named Charlie Telfer (played by a very young Leslie Nielsen) enters the house uninvited.  The Chief counsels the Stannards to allow Telfer to stay during the investigation and so keep him from printing wild speculations by the promise of an exclusive story.  Charlie proves himself to be a cynical young man who attempts to bribe Chapman to get some photos of Andy’s room.  Chapman spurns the offer as an insult.

The parents become rattled from the waiting and now the school administrator shows up and complains that she is the wronged party by the kidnapping.  Edith grabs for the fireplace poker and is only stopped by the police chief from braining her.  After she is escorted out the phone rings and the kidnapper tells David what he wants, $500,000 in small bills and to show that the money is ready the television show which David’s company sponsors will be the signal.  The host will wear a white suit jacket.

Now Al arranges for the money.  It is being counted and serial numbers recorded.  Now David talks to the Chief and Charlie about the exchange.  But when David expresses the hope that Andy will be home by end of day the men crush his hopes by telling him that regardless of whether he pays the ransom or not the chance of return is the same, two out of three.  And hearing this, David’s logical mind jumps to a conclusion.  Now he goes to the television station and tells the host that the plan has changed and he, David will speak to the audience.  He spreads the ransom money on a table and then tells the camera that he will not ransom his son.  Instead he will use the $500,000 as a reward to anyone who will turn in the kidnappers.  And to the kidnapper he adds that if Andy is returned unharmed then the reward will be rescinded and if the kidnapper happens to be captured David will act as a character witness on the kidnapper’s behalf because of the mercy shown his son.  And then he finishes by swearing on a Bible that all he said would be observed.

But when David returns home, he is told by all, by the chief, by Al, by Charlie and most of all by Edith that he has done a terrible thing. She begs him to undo it and go back to the kidnappers and reverse himself.  David tells them it is too late.  For good or ill the die is cast.  Edith breaks down and is taken to Al’s house down the street to mourn.  A crowd that has assembled outside the home reacts to the news with rage and stones are thrown through the windows.  Charlie goes outside and tells the reporters to go home and leave the family to its agony.  Then the police disperse the angry crowd.  Finally, Andy’s shirt is found in an abandoned car and delivered to his father.  But there is a quantity of blood on the shirt.  Now David despairs and breaks down in tears.  The only one who has not deserted him in his lowest hour is Chapman who tries to comfort him and reminds him of King David’s grief at the death of his son Absalom.  After he calms himself David goes into the yard and looks at the fort that Andy was building the other day.  And as he stands there, he thinks he hears Andy calling him.  And looking up he sees his son.  Unable to believe his eyes he clasps Andy in his arms in joy but notices that Andy’s wearing a strange shirt.  Andy explains that they gave it to him after he bit the nurse and her blood got on his shirt.  Now the house is alerted.  Chapman calls Al’s house to let Edith know the good news and the movie ends in front of the house with Edith running up and being embraced by her son and her husband embracing them both.

This is some serious melodrama.  Every heartstring there is gets tugged.  But the story works and the acting is good.  Any parent watching this will feel every fear and experience the anxiety of such a daring plan by David to save his son.  This is a good movie of its kind, a personal drama.  I can recommend it.  In the next part of this review, we’ll look at what forty years changes in the story as we look at the remake.

Ransom – A Movie Review and Comparison – Part 2

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 4 – Mirror, Mirror

Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura go down to a planet whose inhabitants are called Halkans.  Maybe the planet is called Halka, but who knows?  The Halkans are lame looking pacifists who refuse to let the Federation mine dilithium crystals on their planet because they might use it for violence.  The guy who plays the head of the Halkan Council had a strange looking head and is dressed like a girl as far as I could tell.

Kirk tells them to think it over and he calls the enterprise to beam them up.  There is an ion storm (of course) raging in space and as the party is beaming up, they first appear in the Enterprise transporter room then disappear again.  Immediately afterward we see the landing party materialize in the transporter room but something is wrong.  The landing party is wearing uniforms that differ from normal.  Uhura has a bare midriff and the men have different shirts and all of them have daggers on their thighs.  Also, the ship has some kind of strange insignia and Mr. Spock is sporting a beard.

Kirk figures out that they aren’t on their own Enterprise and plays along with Spock concerning their apparent surprise.  He claims that the transporter malfunction has shaken them up and they need to go to sickbay for Bones to examine them.  Meanwhile we observe that on this Enterprise any mistakes are punished by means of a torture device called an “agonizer.”  Using the computer Kirk discovers that in this universe the Federation is an Empire and Halkans will have to be massacred to pay for their refusal to allow mining of their dilithium crytals.

When the crew find out that Kirk declines to wipe out the Halkans they see their chance to overthrow him.  Chekov and his followers attack Kirk as he heads for his cabin.  Luckily one of Chekov’s men turns on the conspirators and disintegrates them with his phaser leaving Chekov to be hauled off to the “Agony Booth” where he should have been allowed to die but Kirk eventually spares him and sends him to confinement in his cabin.

Kirk and his landing party figure out that an ion storm has somehow cause a rift between parallel universes (of course) and their only chance to return is to trigger the same phenomenon artificially.  To set this up Scotty and McCoy go to the engineering area and at the critical moment Uhura will have to throw herself at Sulu to distract him from his security board so he won’t notice the engineering changes.  As soon as it is clear she then slaps Sulu across the face and pulls a knife on him to escape his very un-Takei-like behavior.

Meanwhile Spock has informed Kirk that even though he would prefer not being Captain he will be forced to assassinate Kirk if he does not comply with the Empire’s order to annihilate the Halkans.  When Kirk reaches his cabin, he finds the Captain’s Woman, Marlena lounging on his bed and acting very familiar.  She demonstrates the Tantalus Field device that Kirk uses to disintegrate his enemies at a distance.  Kirk fences words and wrestles with her a little to show her he is still interested in her as a partner.

When Kirk and his group meet up in sickbay prior to going to the transporter Spock shows up and attempts to arrest the Captain but a fight ensues and eventually Kirk smashes a sculpture of a human skull over Spock’s head and knocks him unconscious.  While McCoy stays in sickbay to save Spock’s life the rest of the group heads to the transporter room there they are met by Sulu and his hit squad who intend to kill Kirk and Spock and take over the ship.  Marlena uses the Tantalus field and kills all the assassins except Sulu whom Kirk knocks out.

Meanwhile back in sickbay Spock regains consciousness and overpowers McCoy and uses the Vulcan mind meld to find out what is going on.  Back at the transporter Marlena shows up and tries to force the landing party to take her along.  Uhura overpowers her and takes away her phaser.  Spock and McCoy show up and Kirk tells Spock that he should use the Tantalus Field to take over the ship and work to turn the Empire into a more logical and benign Federation.  Spock allows the landing party to leave and they end up on the Federation Enterprise.

In the final scene on the bridge Bones tells Spock that he thought the beard was a distinct improvement for Spock.  Spock informs them that the naked aggression and open dishonesty of the other landing party was distinctly refreshing.  Finally, a new officer Marlena shows up and after an obvious look of recognition by Kirk that Spock notes, Kirk dissembles and says that she seems like a “nice, likeable girl.”  And he thinks they might become friends.

Here was a chance for Chekov and Sulu to have some fun and be bad guys.  Even Uhura was able to get some screen time playing around with Sulu and even getting tossed around during the fight with Spock.  Kirk and Spock got to wrestle and tumble around sickbay and Scotty and McCoy also were given a few scenes.  There was one scene on the real Enterprise where Spock is having the fake landing party tossed into the brig and fake Kirk is trying to bargain with Spock for his release, promising him power and threatening to string him up by his “Vulcan ears” if he doesn’t.

All in all, it’s kind of a fun episode.  Let’s call it a 7.  As far as Shatner mockery points, Kirk does swagger around in his sportier more swashbuckling uniform and he does act goofier than usual but I wouldn’t say more than a 5.  That makes this a   7 // 5.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 3 – The Changeling

The Enterprise is responding to a signal from the Malurian system.  But upon scanning the solar system they find that all of the four billion people there are dead.  They are attacked by an incredibly potent enemy that drains the ship’s deflector shield in a few blasts.  Kirk attempts to reason with the unseen enemy.  He names himself James Kirk in his address and the enemy seems to break off the attack at this mention.  We find out that a small three-foot-long robotic device that calls itself Nomad is the attacker.  It agrees to break off the attack and come aboard the ship.  We learn that Nomad was an Earth probe from the 21st century.  Nomad has mistaken James Kirk for its creator, Dr. Jackson Roykirk.  We eventually learn that the original Nomad was a probe designed and programmed to seek out interstellar life.  It was damaged and somehow merged with an alien probe called Tan Ru that was also damaged.  Tan Ru was enormously powerful and had as its mission to sterilize soil samples for planetary colony evaluation.  Once the two probes were integrated, their new mission was to seek out biological life and if it was imperfect, which it always was, to sterilize it.  This explained what had happened to the Malurian system.

Nomad starts exploring the Enterprise with unsurprisingly dire results.  He hears Lt Uhura singing and he analyzes her mind and finds it irrational so he erases her memory.  When Scotty attempts to come to her aid Nomad strikes him with an energy bolt that kills the engineer.  When Kirk complains that Nomad has destroyed on of the creator’s “units” Nomad agrees to repair the dead human.  And he does, much to the amazement of Dr. McCoy.  Kirk attempts to immobilize Nomad in a containment cell but Nomad leaves and when his two guards attempt to stop him, he disintegrates them.  Nomad repeats this action once again in another scene.

Kirk becomes exasperated with Nomad’s casual destruction of biological units and tells Nomad that Kirk himself is a biological unit.  This is a big mistake.  Nomad decides that he should sterilize the Enterprise and then head back to the point of origin, Earth, to decide how to eliminate imperfection there too.  Kirk hits on a plan and tells his men to stand by with anti-grav units to transport Nomad when Kirk gives his command.

Kirk tells Nomad that he is not the creator.  That he has mistaken James Kirk for Jackson Roykirk.  And since that is an error, Nomad is himself imperfect.  And since all imperfection must be sterilized Nomad must sterilize himself.  As Nomad’s processor attempts to reconcile this fact.  Kirk has his crew use the anti-grav units to carry Nomad to the transporter and right before he gives to signal to beam Nomad off the ship, he says to Nomad, sterilize the imperfection.  Kirk watches through a view screen as an intense flash signals that Nomad has sterilized himself right out of existence.

While Mr. Spock bemoans the loss of such an amazing creation Kirk observes that the machine thought Kirk was its mother.  He adds, “You saw what it did for Scott.  What a doctor it would have made.  My son, the doctor.  Kind of gets you right here, doesn’t it?”

I really like this episode.  The plot is a well thought up science fiction story that provides the Enterprise crew with something different from the usual human dramas that typically develop.  The plot device of Kirk outsmarting a machine is one that is repeated several times in the series but in this episode, it is used to good effect and the humorous ending is especially well done.  There is no Shatner mockery points to be found in this episode so I’ll give this a  9 // 0.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 2 – Who Mourns for Adonais?

In this episode the Enterprise is surveying an uninhabited planet when a force field in the shape of a giant hand grabs hold of the ship.  Then an image of a man with laurel leaves around his head contacts the ship and tells them that they will follow in the footsteps of their ancestors Agamemnon, Odysseus and worship him.  He proves that he can crush the ship if they defy him and so Kirk, Scotty, Bones, Chekov and a pretty blonde-haired anthropology officer named Carolyn beam down.  The image orders Spock to stay aboard because his demeanor reminds him of Pan whom he always found boring.  Kirk tells Spock to investigate Apollo and figure out a way to escape from him.

On the planet they find a small Greek temple with a stone seat on which is sitting the god Apollo.  He tells them that he has been waiting five thousand years for humans to reach his home.  He wants the crew of the Enterprise to migrate to the surface after which he’ll destroy the ship and turn them into a tribe of pastoralists who will worship him as their god.  He also wants Carolyn to bear a family of young gods by him and to show her his interest he dresses her in a revealing ancient Greek costume.  Carolyn is very receptive and seems to be in love with Apollo.  Meanwhile Kirk and the rest of the men try to convince Apollo that they’ve outgrown the Olympian gods and won’t become his devotees.  Scotty who is in love with Carolyn several times tries to interfere with Apollo’s attention to her and each time he gets punished a little more painfully.  Apollo tells Carolyn that he has been waiting alone because the other gods, Hera, Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena and the rest, gave up and dematerialized.

Meanwhile Spock has been working out a plan.  He has figured out a way to poke holes in the force field that the ship can communicate through and fire phasers through.  He tells Kirk that he has located the source of power as the temple.  Bones identifies an organ in Apollo’s chest that could be the conduit for the power from the temple to be wielded by Apollo.  Kirk convinces Carolyn to spurn Apollo and while he is distracted by her he has the Enterprise attack the temple.  After a short battle between Apollo and the ship, the temple is disintegrated.  Apollo now mourns for universe that no longer needs gods and calls to his comrades, Hera, Zeus, Aphrodite and Athena and asks them to take him away to their abode out of the normal universe.  He disappears from the world and Kirk muses whether it would’ve been so bad to gather a few laurel leaves.

This is a silly episode that has some things going for it.  First off there is the pretty girl in the slinky dress.  That can’t be bad.  Secondly the discussion about the classical Greek gods adds some interest.  Thirdly the actor playing Apollo has some presence and in the end dialog where he bemoans his fate, he does a good job.  The banter between Kirk, Bones and Chekov has its moments.  I’ll be kind and give this an 8.

As far as a Shatner mockery score, there is one scene where Kirk defies Apollo and in return Apollo remotely chokes the breath out of Kirk so we get Shatner making a goofy face while clutching at his throat as if he can’t breathe.  So, let’s call the whole thing 8 // 6.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 1 – Amok Time

The first episode of the second season is notable for a couple of reasons.  It’s the first appearance of Ensign Chekov.  He is a young man with a really bad Russian accent and a Beatles haircut which differed from the rest of the crew with a more military cut.  The other distinction is that this episode features the first details of Vulcan.  Mr. Spock is going through a Vulcan physiological syndrome that requires him to return to Vulcan to perform an ancient mating ritual or else die from the suppression of the metabolic process involved.  The visible manifestations of this syndrome include clear irritability and tremors in his hands.  When the always annoying Nurse Chapel brings him a bowl of Vulcan soup Spock scream at her and throws the bowl out of his cabin into the corridor.  When the video screen on the desk in his cabin interrupts him he smashes it flat with his bare hand.

Kirk has been ordered to proceed in all haste to a diplomatic occasion on another planet but in order to save Spock from dying he disobeys his orders and brings Spock to Vulcan.  When they arrive Kirk and McCoy agree to act as Spock’s entourage during the ceremony.  There we meet the prospective bride, T’Pring.  She’s decently good looking.  We also meet the leader of Spock’s tribe, T’Pau.  She on the other hand is an old battle axe.  Now we find out that a Vulcan marriage has the potential to involve a battle to the death for the bride’s hand.  And that’s what T’Pring demands.  And as is her right she selects the challenger.  But instead of selecting her real choice, a doofus named Stonn, she picks Kirk.  Kirk is afraid that if he refuses that Stonn will kill the weakened Spock in the combat.  So, he agrees to battle Spock, unaware, at first, that it is to the death.  The first round involves a weapon that has a large semicircular razor on one side of a pole with a cudgel on the other side.  Spock immediately slices through Kirk’s shirt and chest with it and Kirk barely manages to avoid death.  In the next round the weapon is a combination bolo and garroting band.  Before they get going McCoy gets permission to inject Kirk with a medicine that will allow Kirk to breath better in the low air pressure on Vulcan.

This time the contest does not go well and Spock chokes Kirk to death.  McCoy returns to the ship with Kirk’s body.  Spock questions T’Pring as to her motive in choosing Kirk.  She explains that she was unwilling to be the wife of an absentee legendary husband and so she reasoned that if Kirk won, he would not want her and if Spock won, he would also reject her for her betrayal.  Spock commends her on her logic and warns Stonn that winning T’Pring might not be as good a deal as he currently thinks it to be.

The payoff for the show comes as Spock takes his leave of T’Pau.  They flash their Vulcan gang sign with the space between the third and fourth digits and Spock gives her the “live long and prosper” line.  She repeats it to him but his comeback is, “I shall do neither, for I have killed my captain and my friend.”  Upon meeting Dr. McCoy, Spock informs him that he intends to hand over his command to Scotty but behind Spock a visibly living James Kirk replies, “Don’t you think you better check with me first?”  Spock in surprise and then delight breaks into a broad smile and grabs Kirk by the arms and exclaims “Captain! Jim!”  McCoy explains that what he injected into Kirk was a drug that would temporarily simulate death.  When McCoy questions Spock about his apparent emotional outburst on seeing Kirk alive Spock goes into a song and dance about how it was merely logical relief to see that he had not killed Kirk.  McCoy says it is all very logical but as Kirk and Spock are leaving, he says in a loud voice, “in a pig’s eye.”

And as the final straightening out of the plot we hear that Starfleet Command retroactively agrees to a request from T’Pau to allow the Enterprise to stop over at Vulcan.  Apparently, she is indeed a very heavy hitter in the galaxy.  So, Kirk is off the hook.

Interestingly this episode was written by Theodore Sturgeon who was a very talented but erratic science fiction writer at the time.  As a tv show it has a lot going for it.  We get to watch Kirk and Spock dance around the uncomfortable dynamic of their friendship and Spock’s discomfort with addressing his Human/Vulcan emotional baggage.  I especially enjoyed Spock screaming at Nurse Chapel.  I’ve always despised the character and the chance to see her abused by Spock whom she obviously pines for was vey funny.  What can I say, I’m a monster.

There is also an enormous amount of hokey ritual on Vulcan with gongs, bells on some kind of shaking rack that looks really stupid.  There are funny weapons.  T’Pau is carried around on a litter by two attendants.  They’ve got all the funny words they use for the various parts of the ritual.  There are the silly names T’Pring and T’Pau.  It’s so much fun.  And the friendship between Kirk and Spock is actually well done.  When Spock answers T’Pau about his bleak future it hits just the right chord.  The scene where Spock realizes that Kirk isn’t dead works to great effect with Kirk’s line coming off as very comical and effective.  I give this episode a 9.

As for Shatner mockery points, what more could you ask for.  There is the sliced shirt, the rolling around and the minor tumbling moves.  Plus, Kirk gets to be strangled and play dead.  It’s great.  This is a 9 // 7.

A Letter to Three Wives – An OCF Classic Movie Review

IMDb lists this 1949 film as a romance drama.  Today we’d call such a film a “chick flick.”  The director,Joseph Mankiewicz  was also responsible for “All About Eve,” which was another movie that centered around women.  Mankiewicz received Oscars for both of them so it seems this type of movie was his specialty.

The plot revolves around three married couples, the Bishops, the Phipps and the Hollingsways.  They live in a suburb of New York City and the three wives Deborah, Rita and Lora Mae, respectively, all have an uneasy relationship with a fourth woman, Addie Ross who has always been admired by their husbands for her beauty, intelligence and taste.  As the story opens it’s the morning of the first big country club dance in town and the wives are in various stages of annoyance with their husbands.

Deborah is angry at Brad because he’s going on a business trip and doesn’t even know if he’ll return in time for the dance.  In addition, he has selected an evening gown for his wife for the dance that she has discovered is identical to a dress Addie Ross recently wore.  Rita is angry with George because he is dismissive of her job as a radio script writer whereas she resents that he works as a low paying teacher at the high school.  She is also surprised to see him leaving that morning in a suit, something he never does.  And Lora Mae is dismissive of her husband Porter strictly on general grounds.  Their relationship is a continuous stream of digs and jibes by both of them.

The wives are engaged that day as chaperones for the grammar school annual outing at the lake.  But right before the boat leaves the dock a letter arrives for the three women addressed from Addie Ross.  In it she ironically says goodbye to them as her three dearest friends.  She’s leaving town forever but as a memento of her life with them she says that she’s running away with one of their husbands.

The bulk of the movie is the reminiscences of the three women on their history together as wives, friends and rivals for Addie Ross.  Brad and Deborah Bishop are played by Jeffrey Lynn and Jeanne Crain.  Brad is the rich, handsome aristocrat of the story.  Deborah is a farm girl that Brad met in the Navy in WW II.  She has always been intimidated by the more sophisticated background of his friends and their shared experiences as longtime residents of the town.  Honestly, I find these two characters the least interesting of the six.  Kirk Douglas and Ann Sothern are George and Rita Phipps.  They are the intelligent couple.  He’s a school teacher and a wit.  She’s a hard-working career mother trying to push George into a more ambitious and better paying career.  Paul Douglas and Linda Darnell are Porter and Lora Mae Hollingsway.  Based on their way of speaking and information you learn from the story they are both from “the wrong side of the tracks.”  In fact, in a comical scene from her past we see that Lora Mae’s mother’s apartment was practically on top of the elevated train tracks adjoining it.  Porter is a very wealthy retailer with a chain of appliance stores and a mansion.  And when Porter and Lora Mae meet, she is his employee and he is a cynical divorced man on the make.  She is a painfully beautiful young woman to his gruff 35-year-old cynic and she skillfully uses her charms to negotiate a marriage.  And after he can no longer resist her, he grudgingly agrees to marry her but in terms so unflattering and unromantic that their married life is guaranteed to be a vicious cycle of hurt feelings.  Porter and Lora Mae are the most interesting part of the movie.  Paul Douglas’s characterization of Porter as the gruff regular guy and Linda Darnell’s Lora Mae as the wise-cracking shrew are very amusing.  And Linda Darnell is a remarkably beautiful young woman in this film.  A small supporting part in this movie is played by Thelma Ritter as a friend of Lora Mae’s mother and housekeeper to the Phipps.  Ritter is always the most interesting character on screen in any scene she is in and this movie is no exception.

The movie has a surprise ending at the country club dance when we find out that love can be found in unexpected places.

One of the things I find interesting about this movie is the “types” that the various characters represent.  Brad Bishop and apparently Addie Ross are the “to the manor born” aristocrats of the town.  They both have money and refined taste.  George and Rita Phipps are the educated middle class.  They are the product of the egalitarian World War II generation who believe in the virtues of enlightened modernism.  Porter and Lora Mae are from the working class and for both of them buying into refinement of the upper class is one of their highest motivations.  Porter is constantly talking about Addie’s “class” and disparaging Lora Mae for her lack of class.  And when she goes to Porter’s house for the first time Lora Mae tells Porter that she wants to be a lady so she can have a big house with a piano with a photo of her in the silver frame just like Porter has of Addie Ross.  Deborah Bishop is the farm girl who is completely intimidated by Brad and Addie’s sophistication.  Instead of aspiring to become like them she just fatalistically assumes that someday brad will cast her aside for her social superior, Addie.

Although Brad is obviously friendly with the Phipps and not noticeably a snob his character is very sparsely sketched in.  And likewise, Deborah’s inferiority complex makes her a very one-dimensional character.  The Phipps are a more fully drawn pair of characters and their husband/wife dynamic is also more believable and therefore enjoyable.  I especially like how Kirk Douglas describes his low status and not very well-paying job as making him a comic figure and almost unmanly.  George is the modern man, comfortable with his wife as a bread winner.  When she complains that he bought cheaper whiskey because he can’t afford scotch, she hints that she can afford to buy it instead.  To this George replies, “I forget sometimes that I’m merely the titular head of the household.”  But even Rita is insecure of George’s relationship with Addie.  When Rita forgets George’s birthday Addie sends him a present of a rare symphony recording that has a romantic inscription that inspires Rita’s jealousy.

But the most fully drawn characters are Porter and Lora Mae.  He is the self-made man who worked his up to success.  He is proud of his success and desires to be measured by his material possessions and by the “class” that he tries to surround himself with.  Addie Ross is his ideal of an aristocrat who wouldn’t covet his wealth and would add the class that he was born without.  He was formerly married to a gold digger and he assumes because Lora Mae forced him to marry her that she is looking for the same kind of “pay day” where she can divorce him for all she can get.

Lora Mae is a woman born poor but blessed with the gift of great beauty.  She likes Porter but she refuses to enter into an intimate relationship with him without the promise of marriage.  She knows this will torture him but she tells him openly that is her price.  When he finally grudgingly agrees, he tells her that she is making a “good deal” without any illusions of love.  The bitterness this statement elicits from her is the poison that haunts their every married day with each of them sniping at the other about their shortcomings.  Here is an almost Shakespearian scenario where misunderstanding blinds love on both sides.

The movie is quite enjoyable and is an excellent date movie for married couples since the war between men and women is on full display and is resolved very agreeably.  I highly recommend this film.

Shakespeare in Film – Part 10 – Richard III – Olivier’s 1955 Version

This is not one of my favorite plays.  Part of that is my allegiance to the House of Lancaster.  Henry IV and Henry V seemed like my kind of guys so I was sorry to see the House of York pry back the crown from their side in Henry VI Parts I, II & III.  But more than that, it’s the spectacle of a monster like Richard crushing the people around him, his family in fact, without any compunction or even much difficulty.  His brothers Edward and George are oblivious to his treachery even as it is being accomplished.  His other enemies are more aware but equally powerless to save themselves from his malice.  He moves from outrage to outrage upping the ante at each stage.  Finally, he assigns a merciless assassin to smother his nine and twelve-year-old nephews with their own pillow to ensure that they never have the chance to revenge themselves on Richard for his usurpation of their father’s crown.  And then there’s the matter of Lady Anne.  She is the widow of the Lancaster heir to the throne, Henry VI’s son Edward.  And it was Richard who killed Edward.  Having Anne agree to wed Richard is the final outrage that just makes the play a bridge too far for me.  I mean, come on! Richard is a hunchbacked, withered armed, monster.  Anne spits in his face and calls him a fiend and then willingly marries him.  This is a tough play to understand.

Anyway, Olivier plays Richard to the hilt.  He is actually comical at certain points in his jocular, two-faced portrayal of the monster.  Olivier has surrounded himself with an all-star cast of Shakespearean professionals.  Cedric Hardwicke is his brother King Edward IV, John Gielgud is his brother George, Duke of Clarence, Ralph Richardson is Duke of Buckingham and Claire Bloom is Lady Anne.  The acting is good.  It’s just that I can’t stomach the plot.  To see evil just dance along while well meaning people are led to the slaughter irks me.  The ending should be consolation enough.  Richard gets his comeuppance and pays the price.  But the play rubs me the wrong way.  It’s the way that good seems to be powerless to resist evil.  It’s almost as if it gives up without a fight.  Oh well.

So, as you can tell I don’t love this play but I recognize that it’s really about me and my way of looking at the world.  I acknowledge that this is a well-acted version of the play and the production is full of nice touches.  The chanting monks, the cinematography of the battle scene, the excellent set design, the skill of the cast.  Olivier’s elocution and mastery of the part demands it be seen.  He gives us a consummate and thoroughgoing villain.  All of it recommends this play to the Shakespeare devotee.  So, I do recommend this version.  It is well done and deserves high praise.

But I’d rather watch Hamlet.  I’d rather watch Henry V.  Richard III rankles me no little bit.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 28 – Operation: Annihilate!

The Enterprise heads for the colony on Deneva where a form of madness has broken out.  They detect a Denevan space ship heading for the planet’s sun and just as it burns up the ship’s occupant declares that he is free.  We learn that Captain Kirk’s brother Sam and his wife and son are on Deneva.  And when the landing party reaches Deneva they find that the inhabitants have gone crazy and that Kirk’s brother is dead.  Kirk’s sister-in-law and nephew are beamed up in critical condition.  Interestingly enough Deneva looks just like a 1960s college campus in California for some reason.  Meanwhile the landing party discovers an amorphous parasite that infects the inhabitants by biting them on the back.  One of them bites Spock and he becomes possessed by the creature.  Eventually Spock learns to overcome the pain and he helps Dr. McCoy find a cure for the infection.  Finally, they figure out that the extremely strong light levels near a star is what destroys the parasite.  To test it out they expose Spock to an extremely high light level and it works.  The parasite is gone but Spock is made blind.  But then McCoy realizes that ultraviolet light would have destroyed the parasite without blinding the host.  With this knowledge the Enterprise is able to cure the population of Deneva.  And it turns out that Spock’s blindness is temporary because Vulcan anatomy includes an inner eyelid.

Well, this is the last episode of the first season and comparing it to the rest of the season I’d say it was just about an average story.  The parasite plot is actually sort of a rip-off of Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters.”  Spock being infected and fighting off the effects is slightly interesting and the blinding was a nice little twist but honestly there isn’t a lot here.  And just to make sure there was a curse on the episode they dragged Nurse Chapel into the story to add her patented boredom to the mix.  The best description for this one is meh.

6 // 1  That’s the most I can give it.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 28 – The City on the Edge of Forever

The episode starts out on the Enterprise bridge with lights flickering and the crew throwing themselves from side to side to simulate turbulence.  Spock says some mumbo jumbo about the temporal fluctuations.  Suddenly Sulu’s control panel explodes and he is hurled to the deck.  McCoy gives him an injection of cordrazine and Sulu immediately responds and recovers.  But another bump of turbulence causes McCoy to accidentally inject himself with a massive overdose of the drug which turns him into a raving paranoid fleeing imaginary assassins.  In this state he overpowers a transporter operator and beams himself down to a planet in the vicinity of the Enterprise.

Kirk and Spock and a landing party beam down to the planet and discover a strange quadrilateral shaped stone aperture that talks and is the source of the time distortions.  It says it is the Guardian of Forever and the aperture is a time portal through which it is possible to access the past.  We see scenes that are supposed to represent ancient Egypt and Rome.  But as the images begin to portray more modern times McCoy jumps out of the background where he is lurking and runs through the portal.

Just then Uhuru who very unusually is on this landing party tells Kirk that her conversation with the Enterprise has been interrupted.  The Guardian informs them that McCoy’s entrance into the past has disrupted the time stream and the Enterprise and the whole Federation no longer exist.  This puts a damper on the proceedings.

Spock says that using his “tricorder” readings he can allow himself and Kirk to jump into the past slightly in advance of McCoy’s entrance time and in that way, they can figure out how he disrupts history and hopefully prevent it.

They end up in 1930 New York City and meet Edith Keeler (played by a young and attractive Joan Collins) who runs a Street Mission, sort of a homeless shelter for the indigent during the Great Depression.  She gives Kirk and Spock odd jobs to allow them to earn money.  Spock uses their earnings to build a computer interface to extract information from his tricorder from the portal recordings he made earlier.  When Kirk badgers him about his progress he replies that the available resources are primitive.  Later when Edith sees his electronics project and asks him what he is doing he replies, “”I’m attempting to construct a mnemonic memory circuit, using stone knives and bearskins.”  And that line may have been the highlight of the episode.

Right on schedule Kirk falls in love with Edith.  And just then Spock discovers that the event that causes the alteration in time is McCoy preventing a car from running down and killing Edith Keeler.  Surviving, she goes on to head a pacifist movement in the United States and thereby delays the United States entry into World War II long enough to allow the Nazis to invent the atom bomb and win the war.  This puts another damper on the proceedings.

Shortly afterwards McCoy appears in the vicinity of the Street Mission and unbeknownst to Kirk and Spock Edith takes him in and shelters him at the mission.  That night when Edith and Kirk are going to a Clark Gable movie, she mentions McCoy’s name.  Kirk tells Edith to stay right where she is and runs back across the street toward the mission where, right on cue, McCoy and Spock are both standing on the street.  The three shipmates joyfully meet but, just as any woman would, Edith disobeys Kirk and starts jaywalking across the wide street in the path of a speeding truck.  Kirk looks up and is about to run to Edith when Spock warns him not to.  Just then McCoy sees Edith’s plight and would have jumped to her aid except that Kirk subdues him with his arms.  Edith is struck and killed and McCoy tells Kirk that he could have saved her and exclaims, “Do you know what you just did?”  Spock speaks for the dazed Kirk saying in a subdued voice, “He knows, Doctor. He knows.”

The time travelers return to the Guardian of Forever who announces that the time stream has been restored to its original course.  When the landing party contacts the Enterprise and asks Kirk for orders he sullenly replies, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

This episode is known because the original script was written by a well-known science fiction author Harlan Ellison.  And the episode won a Hugo Award which back then was still considered a distinction.

Despite the sobering ending, the show includes a number of humorous exchanges between Spock and Kirk and in general strikes me as extremely well written.  There isn’t any Shatner mockery aspect worth mentioning so I ‘ll give this an 8 // 1.