Monday, 28 February 2011

The siege of Firebase Gloria

On Monday lunchtime while tired after a good meal of turkey breast with Chinese stir fry and a pear, I watch an unexpectedly infertile about the Vietnam war called the Siege of Firebase Gloria. The film has the appearance of a made for TV venture or what in the old days would be described as B movie, despite a large cast and lots of fire power. The interest is the way the film shows up the incompetence of the USA high command at the time of the Tet New Year Holiday.

A USA military patrol, helicopter into an area from base camp finds all the inhabitants of a sympathetic village murdered, the men with their head cut off and staked, the women raped to death and the children massacred in a pit although one boy survives.

They investigate further and come across a small group of young fisherman and their women folk. Noting their ages the patrol is suspicious and arranges cover so that when one of the group opens fire they are able to strike back and kill the enemy finding out that they are regulars and which confirms that there is major movement. They make their way to an outpost on a small hill where the commanding officer is high on drugs and the rest of the men relaxing not expecting trouble. When there is an attack the commanding officer is wounded so the patrol leader takes command. The command base does not believe their report of increasing activity and refuses to send more ammunition, medical supplies or get them out of the area. The patrol find that at the camp there is a small medical unit with several female nurses. The head nurse, a captain, technically outranking the patrol leader, is horrified when a prisoner is tortured to establish what is going on. The torturer explains that there are 2000 of enemy all around them and no one is coming to for them from HQ and they all face the prospect of death with the females being raped to death. She accepts the offer of a an automatic riffle from one of the other troops.

Back at HQ a hippy helicopter pilot goes out to see the position for himself on hearing about the request from the outpost and prevents the camp being overrun with his firepower. He return and refuels and rearms and persuades two other pilots to join him, pretending to outrank someone unwilling to release the helicopters without written orders. They arrive in time to prevent a massacre and are able to drop provide ammunition and medical supplies.

On the third assault the camp is overrun and someone gets into the infirmary killing wounded in retaliation for the patrol and camp killing the wounded closest to the fort. Two of the nurses are killed by he captain used the riffle to kill those who invaded the field hospital. The battle become more fierce and just when it looks as if they will all be killed the maverick helicopter pilot returns again and the remnants of the Viet Com make their retreat, The commander of this group realises that the North Vietnamese army never expected him to succeed but he was part of the New Offensive in which all USA bases were attacked including those in Saigon as a way of signalling that they USA could not win, at a time when back home Congress and the media were told that the war was being won. The survivors are able to return to HQ in a war they cannot win.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Clash of Titans 1981 and 2010, The legends of Perseus

I watched one film yesterday which struck me as appropriate for the circumstances. “Clash of the Titans” This was the 2010 remake of the 1981 film which I remembered well.

The films are loosely based on the story of Perseus, the Greek Hero who killed the Gorgon Medusa and claimed Andromeda who he rescued from the sea Monster, the Kraken, sent by Poseidon after her mother Queen Cassiopeia set herself above the sea nymphs

The official legend is that King Argos disappointed that his only child was a daughter, consulted the Oracle at Delphi and was warned that one day he would be killed by he son of his daughter. The King therefore imprisoned his daughter to keep her childless but when she was found to be pregnant ( by the God Zeus and played by Laurence Olivier in the 1981 film) he casts her and the child on the sea in a coffin. In the legend and in the two films this is found by a fisherman who brings up the boy. In the 1981 film and official legend the mother makes it safely to shore with her son but in the 2010 from he is found dead.

In the legend the brother of the fisherman is in fact the King of their Island and he falls in love with the boy’s mother and initiates a plot to disgrace and send away the son so her can take the mother. The King holds a banquet at which guests are told to bring horses to give as gift and because Perseus has no horses he is told to bring back the head of the Gorgon knowing that to look at her face is to be turned to stone. The reason why Medusa has a head of snakes is that she lay with Poseidon in the temple of Athena and Athena upset by the desecration turned the hair of the girl.

There are different versions in the two films from original story in which Perseus is advised by Athena how to obtain the weapons to defeat Medusa including shield to see her reflection and a sword from Zeus to cut off her head as well as a container to bring back the head. Hades provides the helmet of invisibility. After getting the head of the Gorgon, Perseus is able to escape on the horse Pegasus which springs from the neck of the Medusa.

In the 1981 Calibos son of the sea goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) is to marry Andromeda the daughter of Queen Cassiopeia(Sean Phillips). He is a cruel being who has destroyed all the flying horses of Zeus except for Pegasus. Zeus turns Calibos into a satyr creature outcast and in revenge his mother transports Perseus to the land of Andromeda and her mother where he has to answer a riddle to marry her or be burnt at the stake (Puccini’s Turardot theme) Perseus wins a battle with Calibos and answers the riddle correctly and wins Andromeda. At the wedding her mother compares her daughter’s beauty to that of Thetis which results in the girl having to be given to the Kraken as a virgin within 30 days or the Kraken will destroy the community.

In order to get to the Kraken Perseus has to defeat Gorgon Medusa and encounters the three blind witches who share an eye between them led by (Flora Robson). In this film it is Aphrodite (Ursula Andress) and not Athena who has punished Medusa. Perseus battles with a two headed dog and after getting the head of Medusa he has to battle with Calibos and giant scorpions but manages to find Pegasus and returns just as his bride is to be sacrificed to the Kraken.

The 2010 film is just as complicated and begins with the defeat of the Titans by their sons Zeus (Liam Neeson) Poseidon and Hades (Ralph Fiennes) after Zeus got Hades to create the Kraken from his flesh. After the defeat the reign and power of Zeus is enhanced by the worship of human kind while Poseidon rules the seas and Hades is left to control the Underworld, a fate he resents. The story then jumps to Pete Possethwaite as the fisherman who finds Perseus but with his unidentified mother dead and brings him up as his son with his wife and younger daughter. They lead a happy life although his substitute father knows that one day his son will go off to find out who he really is. Unfortunately they encounter the soldiers of Argos destroying a giant statue of Zeus which falls into the sea. For some reason not explained in the film this incenses Hades (who I would have thought would have applauded the action and is therefore a monumental film flaw) who unleashes his wrath on the form of Harpies to set about the soldiers. For some inexplicable reason Hades then also lets his wrath destroy the fishing vessel thus killing the surrogate parents and their daughter with only Perseus escaping.

For some unexplained reason the King and Queen of Argos have also launched a war on the Gods and their soldiers finding Perseus bring him to their monarch. The king talks of victory and to the horror of her daughter the Queen says the girl is more beautiful than Aphrodite.

Zeus is angered by the rebellion against his power at which Hades joins in and gains permission to destroy Argos appearing at the court and turning the wife into an old woman approaching death. He insists that Andromeda is to be sacrificed to the Kraken. He recognises Perseus as a Demi god and arranges for Zeus to know who in turn fails to acknowledge or help his son. These Gods are therefore despicable bastards and therefore my sympathy is with the rebellious Argos although his wife was foolish not to appease the female Gods, bitches as some were known to be.

Understandably Perseus was hesitant about joining Argos in his rebellion and is imprisoned by the King. He encounters Lo who is an ageless woman cursed because she refused Poseidon and who sets about educating Perseus on his lineage and that he can take his revenge against Hades by destroying the Kraken. So he does a deal with the King to save his daughter while Hades enlists Calibos to stop Perseus and gives him superhuman powers. Unfortunately Perseus has an identity crisis and resists help from the Gods in case this makes him into one and this results in his not being able to protect his helpers. Fortunately he is helped by Demons of Arabian mythology and they join forces to help overthrow the Gods.

Perseus also goes to see the Stygian witches and their one eye who advises that if he gets the head of Medusa it can be used to turn the Kraken into stone. However they warn that death will befall his helpers so the majority depart and he must fight the good fight almost alone. Perseus succeeds and gets the head but on leaving the underworld he sees Calibos attempt to kill Lo. Perseus manages to kill Calibos who pleads with him not to become like a God while Lo becomes gold dust and goes to Mount Olympus. Perseus rides Pegasus in an attempt to complete his mission.

In the original legend it is only after he has the head of Medusa that he visits the Kingdom ruled by Cepheus and Cassiopeia who boasts she is as beautiful as the sea nymphs which angers Poseidon who sends his created sea monster to kill and destroy. The King must offer his daughter to the monster who is tied to a rock. Perseus uses winged flying sandals to kill the monster and free Andromeda and claiming her in marriage. Her previous betrothed battles with Perseus and it is he who is turned to stone by having sight of the Gorgon’s head. Andromeda has a son by Perseus. On returning home and finding his mother has been pursued by his father brother, Perseus kills him also using the Medusa head and makes his father King. However because it is all legend there are variations of the mythology which explains the variations and changes in characters, chronology and emphasis.

On his way back to Argos after taking the head of Medusa in the 1981 film Perseus is knocked off Pegasus and falls into the sea as he is about to rescue Andromeda. He is rescued by Bubo a large owl given Perseus by Athena to replace his lost helmet of invisibility. It is also Bubo who locates Perseus when he is lost wounded in the swamp and to tries to stall the Kraken from getting at Andromeda. Perseus turns the Kraken into to stone with the head, which he then throws into the sea and emerges with Andromeda to the applause of he people of Argos. The couple marry and have children protected by Zeus who orders that the other Gods do not pursue them. As with the legend the two becomes constellations of stars to remind humanity of the values of heroism and bravery.

In the 2010 film Hades believing that Perseus has not survived the Medusa tells Zeus that the destruction of Argos will give himself the power to overthrow the Gods and end the reign of Zeus. Zeus counters with the news that Perseus lives and Hades sends his harpies to Kill Perseus as he returns but they fail and the Kraken is killed. Hades taunts Perseus that he cannot destroy him but Perseus sends him back into the Underworld using a bolt of lightning conducted by the sword of Olympus.

In the theatre version of the 2010 film with one eye on a sequel, Andromeda offers Perseus the Kingship of Argos following the death of her father in battle with the Kraken. He declines. His father offers him a place on Olympus as a God but this he also declines. Zeus warns that Hades will return and threaten humanity but this only reinforces his son’s determination to continue adventuring! There is an alternative ending on the DVD that Andromeda falls into the sea from the support which had been built high over the water from the city so that the Kraken could claim her without destroying and killing anyone or anything else. They come out of the sea together and the embrace with a passionate kiss. He confronts Zeus saying he does not want to be a god before flying off on Pegasus to live happy ever after but presumably only after a sequel or two!

There is a tenuous moral link between the film and the events in Libya, viz that the Gods will only remain worshipped and retain their power if they are good. If only.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Here we go round the Mulberry Bush

The opportunity was taken to revisit the 1960’s Clive Donner film Here we Go round the Mulberry Bush and which brought Barry Evans to the screen for the first time. He plays a sixth former who earns pocket money delivering goods for a supermarket using a bicycle. He spends his entire life fantasising about girls and women and has four relationships which includes Adrienne Posta. One can be described as simple and common and another as upper class and carefree when all that Barry is seeking is an ongoing sexual relationship. He and his friend constantly boast of each other’s exploits and at the end of the film have both become bus conductors continuing on their Merry go round. The film was shot in Stevenage New Town has contemporary Music and would appeal to the weekend film goers of the day but would probably be ridiculed by contemporary 12 to 15 years olds although it was released on DVD for the first time last year, presumably because there are brief flashes of flesh. July Gleeson, Angela Sinclair, Sheila White, Diane Keen and Vanessa Howard play the other birds!

Case 39

I move on from such depressing information. It is catch up time and I begin with Case 39 a film which interests because if features a child care protection social worker and team. The film stars much admired Renée Zellweger as the idealistic and missionary doing best for the child care work and Ian McShane as a Police Detective, with the third member of the closely working trio is a psychiatrist played by Bradley Cooper.

Case 39 is a referred child who appears withdrawn, and not eating and when the worker investigates the behaviour of the child indicates abuse and of her parents meriting close examination. With difficulty the worker establishes a connection with the ten year old child who phones her later one evening saying she is fearing for her life. Before then, teh worker’s seniors and the police advise that they cannot intervene without some evidence of abuse. After receiving the call the two gain entry by breaking into the house where they find the parents trying to kill the child in the oven after having dug a grave in the basement. The parents are locked up in psychiatric institutions unfit to plead and the child placed in a short term residential unit prior to finding foster parents. She persuades Renée to provide her a home until foster parents can be found and for a short while the arrangement works to the satisfaction of both.

Things then begin to develop in strange and unexpected ways and shortly after the child starts to attend and a counselling group, one of the boys in the group murders his parents after receiving call which appears to come from the home of the worker. Because the child is suspected of being involved she has a psychiatric evaluation with Bradley Cooper during which the child elicits that his fear is that of bees. When he is back home he receives a call which is the sound of bees and then the horror begins as bees start to come out of his ear and other parts of his body in ever increasing numbers although he appears to get rid of individual ones down the toilet bowl. Eventually he manages to snap his own neck and dies.

This incident arouses even more concern especially after Renée finds that the girl has been examining her private possessions and records. She visits the former home of the girl and her parents and finds that they have strengthened their bedroom door and have also place several substantial bolts to lock themselves in. She visits the psychiatric institution where the parents are being held with both self abusing from fears which the staff do not experience. The husband reveals that everyone connected with them, parents, their two other children and friends all died in what they regarded as suspicious circumstances. The father explains that they did not regard the girl as their daughter but some evil creature. Having moved in on Renée they are fearful that the girl will now get rid of them. They had to wait several months before making the attempt to kill the girl as she was able to read their minds and they had to wait until they were able to drug her to sleep. Both parents then die in mysterious circumstances.

Renée attempts to speed up the search for foster parents and she then goes for help to her Detective friend who at first dismisses her concern but then discovers that there was a phone to the Psychiatrist from Renée’s cell phone after she has removed the landline phone. The Detective is then besieged by killer hounds when he leaves his office and after finding one of the creatures sitting behind him in his car he attempts to shoot but manages to blow part of his head off.

The girl becomes more open towards Renée ordering her to do as she is told. Renee concludes that the only way is to kill the herself and manages to drug her to sleep and then sets fire on the house. But the girl reappears and the two are escorted by the police to a temporary place to spend the rest of the night. Renée goes off at speed in a different direct trying to frighten the girl and the girl retaliates with a psychic horror memory of the past. At this point the worker has become so desperate that she locks the car and drives off the levee into the water. The child has now emerged in its true demon form and there is a fight in which Renée is able to escape. During the making of the film the set and studio were destroyed by fire and although the cast were present no one was seriously injured. The release of the films was also beset with difficulties in the various countries where it was shown. The film has been much criticised and failed to attract audiences and just about broken even from its original $27 million. I found it a convincing portrayal of how minds can appear to influence other minds to self harm or commit untypical acts of behaviour. This is not the first films which has used telephone or the television to send subliminal messages getting people to act against themselves or other members of society.

Monday, 21 February 2011


As the British Prime Minister visits Egypt and the Libyan crisis come to a head I took the opportunity to experience one of the important films of recent years (2008) Defiance, which is about how the human spirit can overcome impossible and dangerous circumstances to survive and maintain fundamental standards. The film is based on the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec and is the story of four Jewish Brothers who managed to escape the rounding up and imprisonment in Ghettos and or transportation to the extermination camps in what was Poland and which became Belarus. There is also a book, the Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy. I am placing the books on my to buy list but for future consideration.

Without the books it is not possible to evaluate the accuracy of the story although it is known that there has been uncorroborated allegations against the Partisans and continuing controversy and Nechama is reported to have expressed concern about aspects of the film which departed from her knowledge of what happened.

The films opens as Jewish citizens in a rural community close to the dense forest surrounding the towns of Novogruddek and Lida are being divided with the women and children placed on vehicles and driven off and the men being led into the forest. Two brothers emerge from the forest and return to their farm where the bodies of their parents are discovered. They enter the property and find their youngest brother hidden in a secret area. They decide to move into the Bialowieza local forest which they know well. At one point the youngest Bielski goes off when he sees another young person and finds a mass grave of naked bodies and does not speak or eat for a few days. The eldest another arrives who has been away working for his father in law. There appears to have always been rivalry between the two brothers.

As they come across others in forest the eldest Tuvia, played by Daniel Craig, wants to look after everyone they encounter, while brother Zus, played by Liev Schreiber wants them to move quickly deeper into the forest, and believes the increasing group will slow them down and create problems with feeding. When they approach a sympathetic farmer for food they find that he has been hanged as a “Jew Lover” and although they get substantial food they also have to bring with them several more Jews he has been hiding. They begin to create a longer term camp with shelter for the winter and places they can hide if they are discovered from the air. On one expedition for food they encounter someone who supplies milk and eggs to the Germans and he begs them not to take any as he will be punished. They take some and this results in the encampment coming under attack.

The two brothers quarrel over leadership and tactics with Zus blaming the other for being kind hearted and not killing the supplier of the milk and eggs. This leads to an important passage in which the older brother argues they should try not to adopt the behaviour of their conquerors. One of those who has joined them is an intellectual writer of a monthly pamphlet and he successfully argues they need to organise themselves properly as they would if they were able live freely in society. Following the encounter with the local police forces and collaborators they decide to immediately move on and have to leave the camp and their Winter sheltering and start all over again.

As soon as Zus gets hold of a gun with four bullets he goes off to kill the local policeman and his two sons who he has learned was responsible for the death fo their parents. The wife pleads to be killed along with her family but he keeps the fourth bullet.

When they are joined by refugees from a village where the wife and daughter Zus lived he learns that both are killed and his anger and frustration becomes intense. The community has established what are called forest wives with all the women choosing men to be with and one of the new arrivals chooses him. They group has a rule that they must avoid pregnancy because of the conditions and their circumstances.

One young girl who joins the camp takes a shine to the third brother, a teenager. When she learns that that her parents have been taken into the ghetto of a town in the area and Jews are then being killed or take to extermination camps, she pleads for a rescue attempt and Tuvia and his younger brother Asael enter the ghetto and bring a large number of those incarcerated to join the camp. The young girl through her older friend tells Asael to declare his interest and there is the celebration of a wedding presided over by a Rabbi. The new refugees as with the originals have to surrender all their valuables so they can buy food and weapons. It is my understanding that one criticism of the group is that they obtained food by force and that the taking of food also created difficulties for the non Jewish Community because of the requirements of the German conquerors and the police who acted on their behalf.

On one outing the two older brothers encounter a Soviet Partisan group and they agree to cooperate by sharing food and getting volunteers to fight with them. After further confrontation between the two brothers Zus and a number of other men join the Russian Partisans. The elder brother goes back to the Partisan camp to seek drugs to prevent the developing illnesses in their encampment because of he long hard winter. The Soviet Partisan leader refuses but agrees that Zus can help his brother to raid a local police station to destroy a communications transmitter and where drugs medical drugs are also kept. The raid is successful but only an injured Zus and Tuvia survive.

There is also leadership struggle within the community when Tuvia becomes ill and there is a shortage of food. A group of men who do the fighting and go for food demand privileges and Tuvia is forced to kill the lead rebel to restore order and his authority. He has learned that his wife has also perished and he establishes a relationship with a refugee. One of the refugees is carrying a child from being raped and she gives birth in secret and Tuvia allows the woman to remain.

Just when it appears they have survived Winter and Spring arrives they discover that a German soldier messenger was carrying papers which reveal the Forest is to be surrounded by a German force. The messenger who pleads that he has a wife and child is brutally killed by the group, and several women participate out of revenge for what happened to their families. At the same time the German Partisans are ordered to retreat from the area and this is challenging for Zus and the other Jewish refugee fighters. They are told they will be shot if they do not obey their orders.

Just before the refugees led by Tuvia are about to try and escape they are spotted by a German plane and soon after bombed. They make their attempted escape when the planes leave and finding the edge of the forest they find a large area of swamp land and decide that they have no alternative but to try and cross using belts and rope to form a chain.

Having negotiated this hazard and tired and hungry they reach a bank on new forest lands but before they can enter these they are confronted by German infantry and a tank and machine guns. They have no alternative but to fight and manage to get one of the machine guns, and one refugees gives up his life to blow up the tank. At this point the battle is joined by Zus and the other Jewish partisans and together they overcome the Germans and are able to move into new forests where they are able to set up a further long term camp. Nechama Tec has stated that this battle scene never took place but it was agreed to because of film requirements and the need for financial backing. In reality they did everything possible not to draw attention to themselves. According to the film Director Hitler sent two German divisions into the Forest but did not their location.

The film covers the first year and records that they stayed in the forest for a further two years before the German retreat. The number increased to 1200 and a school and other facilities was established. Asael Bielski was drafted into the Russian Army and died in in action in 1944. Following Soviet oppression in Belarus Tuvia and his other brothers travelled to Palestine and then to the United Estates where they operated a successful Trucking business. They made no attempt to publicise their story.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the books and the film is that it has led to criticism of the way of life of the partisans as if somehow they were expected to either submit to extermination aided by a significant number of Polish Belarus citizens, or to have starved.

I found this a very moving and interesting film and will be surprised if I find a better one during the rest of this year.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Saigon: Year of the Cat

I begin with a film which I presume was made for Television called Saigon: Year of the Cat starring Judy Dench as a senior official in a bank in the capital who appears to have been there for years if not a decade or more and establishes a relationship with a USA embassy official over the last year before the abandonment of the capital to the north led communists. To date I can find no reference to the film on the Internet despite being written by David Hare and with Dame Dench. I am not surprised because it is an odd film, British colonial in style, perhaps intentional, in which the principle characters live in their own world, playing bridge at the club, insulated against the reality of the war and the life of the majority of the people. You feel that the character portrayed has been living a better life than she would have experienced at home and that she is experienced in serious physical relationships with men.

Her lover in this instance prepares a report on the situation in the south which indicates that the war is effectively lost and that every effort should be made to o take to safety all those who have assisted the USA. The Ambassador sits on the analysis because defeat and withdrawal is not an option and he believes that the provision of more funds will turn the tide and secure the south.

There is an excellent account of those last few days and hours as panic spread in the city. There is a shot of records of contacts being left in the embassy as the staff rush to exit taking basic personal possession with them. There is also a shot of someone who was promised to be picked up, still waiting but getting no answer.

The scene however was brilliantly exploited theatrically in the stage musical Miss Saigon which I saw in London three or even four times. I must check sometime. At one level Dame Judy does not appear have the figure and personality of someone to have passionate all absorbing sexual based affairs with men, married or single but I return to my experience where as a young social worker I was asked to deal with the children left behind with a severely disabled mother after the husband had run off with the wife in another family. The running away couple were a most unlikely pair in terms of their physical appearance and lifestyle. In terms of my own experience when I was a young man in work at sixteen there was a secretarial office worker ten to fifteen years older than myself who was known to be having a relationship with a much younger man working in the same office. Nine years later when I went into the staff restaurant at an East East Anglian local authority where I was commencing a summer practical work placement of three months, I met the same individual who in today’s jargon, hit on me offering the use of her car on hearing that I was getting about the large county using public transport. I did not take up the offer, although with hindsight this was more because I did not fancy the woman rather than any morality question.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Totilla Soup

Earlier I watched a light hearted and warm offering for Valentine’s week released in 2001 and based on an original Chinese production called Eat Drink Man Woman, written by Hui-King Wang, Ang Lee and Jams Schamus. This film version Tortilla Soup is story of an American Latino cook Martin Naranjo who has lost his sense of taste and smell and has left the Restaurant where he was the boss with a partner who has taken over. As a widower of 15 years he has successfully brought up three daughters into adulthood although imposed who own values and dreams for their futures.

The eldest Letica was a Catholic who has becomes an evangelical Christian ands who teaches chemistry at high school. She is full of sexual guilt and has become even more conservative than her father. She resists pressure from her sisters to go adventuring. She begins to break out with a domestic plate smashing rebellion against their parent’s continuing control over their lives. She is also attracted to the school baseball coach who she thinks is responsible for a Valentine card and love poems, actually sent by students. He is shocked at first when she decides to respond but they quickly realise their passion and decide to go to Las Vegas and marry after beginning a sexual relationship. Father responds well as the film develops looking forward to a visit with his new son in law to the Dodgers although he eschews the offer of sausage dogs and cola for his own snack creations.

The middle daughter is successful in business and reached the point of leaving home buying a new Condo which is still in the process of being built. She is then offered a well paid job in Barcelona which she decides to take saying she will rent out the Condo. Her real passion is cooking and wanting to have her own restaurant. She makes it to the airport where father gives her some of his cooking knives which she is about to take as hand luggage in this pre 9/11 film. She changes her mind and at the end of the film she has her own restaurant and has the now extended family at a table.

The youngest is aggressive, angry with herself and the world and uncertain of her future, She is due to go to college but after a row with her father she moves into the small flat of her new boyfriend without asking him and then reorganises the flat and his life without seeking his views. When he expresses his reservations she reacts and leaves. The precipitating cause is some papers which he subsequently admits he had hidden away because he had applied to the college in order to be with her. They make up and go off to college together.

Entwined with their stories is food, glorious Mexican American food dishes always banquet style even for Sunday lunch let alone for special occasions. At one meal father is called away to his old restaurant because the outer covering of a baked pears dish has burnt. He works out how to use the pears into a coupe with great success. When he finds the daughter of a family friend is not enjoying her lunches he provides them for her in secret, at least for a while. He find it difficult to cope with his lack of taste and smell and this is affecting quality of the food he is preparing at home

The friend of the family is a young divorced and when her mother comes to visit she has immediate designs on Mr Naranjo. When is former partner suddenly dies and all three daughters are about to embark on their separate loves he announces at a family gathering with everyone present, including grandmother, mother and daughter that he has decided to sell the family home and all its past associations and but a new home large enough for everyone to come and stay. He is of good health and then proposes marriage to the daughter rather than the grandmother, the daughter is about the same age as his eldest daughter. She accepts and in the final scene at the restaurant of his doors, his wife is evidently pregnant in this everyone happy ever after story. He even gets his taste and smell back.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Love with a proper stranger

As with Iron Eagle I also fast forward a lot of Love with a proper Stranger in which Steve McQueen is a musician with the occasional work allocated during sessions at the Union Hall. He is paged by a one night stand Natalie Wood who announces she is pregnant. He cannot remember her. He is a typical foot loose and fancy free musician with a girl friend dancer with whom he appears to use her flat as his own. She is really a good girl from an immigrant family who would like her to marry a nice neighbour who is a cook. She works not he fifth floor of Macey’s. He raises the moeny for an abortion but when he finds the “doctor” is not qualified he does not allow her go through with the termination, something which she also is in agreement. He offers to marry her but she wants a genuine loving relationship and rejects the offer much to the horror of her family. She begins to go out with the nice cook but also accept the subsequent request from Steve to see how things are going inviting him to Sunday lunch and providing a mini buy of drinks. Everything that could go wrong does and she asks him to leave suggesting the relationship is not to be.

In the last scene he appears outside the store on a busy sidewalk with a placard and playing the banjo with bells symbolising romantic love for her and among the crowd they embrace happy ending. The subject of this 1963 film was considered daring despite the accepted morality which followed. The films was nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes without success. It was an appropriate showing for Valentine’s Day.

Iron Eagle

There was a slight connection between Missionary Man and the disappointing lunchtime view called Iron Eagle. There was much flying of an Eagle over the reservation. As the title suggests the Iron Eagle is a USAF jet plane armed to the hilt. I was attracted to this film because among those listed as participating was Poirot Davis Suchet and story appeared to be that of a pilot son rescuing his father who had been take prisoner after his plane has been shot down.

What I quickly discovered is that this was the first of four other films in a series of adventures of a high school boy who is one of those unbelievable normal characters, good son to young brother and sister, has girl friend, open topped fast car and has close network of other vase kids as well as contact with their pilot dads, is allowed to spend hours in flight stimulator prior to Air academy and appears to gave his own light plane which he is able to use at will.

He learns that he has not been accepted at the Academy because of poor general grades and tendency to get into fights and any trouble that is going around, on the day that his father on a routine mission flying over disputed zone between unnamed Arab nation and a friendly nation when they are attacked and he is downed, taken prison and put on immediate trail and sentenced. The anticipation of the USA government is that this was a bargaining move by the Arab nation and therefore they will wait for the negotiating demand. What they do not appreciate is that action has been taken by a rogue command Airforce warlord who wants to prove himself against the world power.

Frustrated by the satiation and fearful for his father the young lad used his friends on the base to gain all the intelligence ewquired for a special mission to rescue his father. That he is able to do this must be worrying for the USA authorities given the apparent ease. He then persuades the friend of his father who appears to be the station commander to go on the mission involving a two craft strike. After the initial skirmish when their planes are detected despite radar jamming and flying low, the professional and experienced pilot commander is hit and has to abandon his plane in the Mediterranean sea while the just graduated, end fo year Prom failed cadet entrant carries out the mission on his own. This involves lots of blowing things up on the ground, fights with enemy Russian built jets and persuading the warlord to bring his father from prison and place him at the end of the runway on his won. This is a trap and a marksman tries to kill the father but manages to only to injure him so he is able to get on board the aircraft and using a special fire bomb prevents the attacking ground military vehicles and security forces stopping them take off. Just when they are being overwhelmed there is a flight from home to forces the remaining MIGs to return to base the mad warlord type of commanding officer having been blown up by the lad. By this time I had worked out that this no more than a video game with incredulous ending as the two man rescue is told that no action will be taken because of the international bad publicity that would emerge and the boy is given his place in the academy and all three, father, son and commander are flown home on the Presidential plane to be greeted as heroes by their friends, family and national media.

The Missionary Man

I stayed up last night to watch Missionary Man with Dolph Lundgren in the title role as a mystical, (is he a human super hero) bible reader when he is not achieving judicial slaughter.

The scene is a North American Indian reservation which is dominated by a Mafia style warlord terrorist who in addition to drug running and trade has done a deal with a New York mob to run a Casino. Guilt legislation, won’t bother to look up when, was passed in the USA which made it legal for native Americans to operate Casino’s on their reservations adding to the tourist attraction options. The Chief has done a deal with the local terrorist boss which see the alleged drowning of the of the reservation Councillor in opposition because he believes they can make more money and avoid the negative potential by operating the Casino themselves without outside help. His funeral is the occasion for the arrival of Lundgren called Ryder in the film.

Before arrival to read a passage from the bible to the gratitude of the man’s wife, teenager daughter and son and grandfather he run into the men of the local warlord beating up a drug addict for the money he owes. The local sheriff and his deputies are afraid of the mobster and tend to do what he requires, as does everyone else with any sense of survival. After paying his respects Dolph makes himself at home drinking Tequila and riding about in his 1970’s Harley Davidson. The mobsters fail to find out the relationship between Dolph and the dead man and keep a close eye on his movements.

When the teenage daughter presses the Sherriff to investigate her father’s death because although he was said to have bought a case of beer, got drunk and fell into the river he was teetotal, the Sheriff says there is nothing further he can do. The mobsters then roughly threaten the girl having warned off the younger brother. Dolph arrives and gives the men a sound beating, smashing up their 4 x 4 and making them run off with their trousers around their ankles.

When the reservation Chief is forced to veto the Casino project because of the wishes of the widow and her daughter the situation is ready to explode. Meanwhile the warlord has a plan to rob visiting Mexicans of their drugs without handing over money. There is a killing sequence during which the the young drug taker, previously rescued by Dolph escape with a gunshot injury and makes his way to the homes of murdered Council members for assistance. This is the cue for large gang of motorbike heavies from the North to arrive to assist the warlord in ridding the town of Dolph and the family opposing his interests. By this time the Sheriff and his deputies have come on side with the consequence that the two deputies are killed. After he has killed all the baddies he rides off.

His rescuing of the daughter results in she having a crush on him and is upset when she and her brother are taken to safe place by grandfather on instructions of Dolph. She comes into town despite this fearing the worst on learning of developments and believing that she will not see him again. She arrives to see him riding off on his bike.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Wrong Man

And now tot he final film for past days The Wrong Man, a lugubrious film with an excellent performance from Henry Fonda and Anthony Quale as his lawyer with Vera Miles as the wife who becomes also catatonic with her sense of personal failure.
What interested me is that the film is based on a true story which was published in the book by Maxwell Anderson The true Story of Emannuel Balestrero and also Life Magazine June 29th 1953. I have not been able to confirm if the film is accurate.

The beleaguered hero is a musician who plays at the Stork Club and he and his wife have constant money problems. When he goes to get a loan on the life insurance to pay for dental treatment his wife needs, staff call the police because of his likeness to the man who has robbed the counter staff twice and not been caught. He is unable to provide an alibi especially when no one is able to confirm that he stayed at a small hotel on a fishing trip on one fo the days when a robbery took place. He is able to get the names and addresses of two of the three men also staying at the hotel at the same time but finds that both have since died and the third name cannot be found. His lawyer does his best to make the case for mistaken identity and his interrogation of one witness upsets a juror who speaks out that forcing the course to determine a retrial at a later date.

Fortunately the actual robbery commits another hold up at a store and is apprehended. In the film teh detective who arrested Fonda sees the man being brought into the police station and makes the connection. I would not be surprised if in reality the man admitted to the previous offences and this resulted in Fonda being cleared. However the sub story that the impact fo all this on his wife as she becomes so depressed because she feels she is responsible by not managing their budget more effectively and being the cause of his visit to the insurance office for the loan. Her illness is such that the doctor feels she needs a sympathetic peaceful environment so he arranged for her to be treated in a small residential institution. When the credits role they tell the audience that it was a further two years before she recovered. The film also makes the point about the danger is using identity parades alone to make a prosecution especially because there was a time gap between the robberies and his visit. The film was produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and therefore has a well scripted element of suspense for those unfamiliar with the story

The Woman in Green

From the Spy in Black to the Woman in Green, a 1945 Sherlock Holmes tale with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr Watson. I must confess to never being fully comfortable with anyone else in these respective roles.

There are a succession of murders in different parts of London in which young women are murdered and one fo their fingers surgically removed, but why? Scotland Yard is baffled much to the anger of the head of detectives so Inspector Gregson, I do prefer La Strange of latter years, calls in Holmes for help who is also baffled. They go for a drink in a night club (unlikely) where Holmes sees Sir George Fenwick out with a very attractive young woman. She invites Sir George back to her flat where her maid is expecting them and where Sir George is then served a night cap. He cannot remember what has happened when he wakes up the following morning but then finds a severed finger from the latest murder in his coat pocket which upon discovering he buries after visit his female friend who can shred no light on the situation saying that he left early.

The man’s daughter comes to Holmes for help and Homes notes that she is being followed. They rush to the house of the girl only to find that her father has been murdered. She witnessed her father burying something in the garden which she digs up to find the severed finger.

It at this point that we learn, as also Holmes work out, that the reason for the murders is that the fingers have been planted on other men who are then blackmailed. And the organiser of this terrible crime? Well of course it is Moriarty.

Watson is called out to a former patient, something he has not done for sometime as he has to find and dust his medical bag. While away Moriarty calls to tell Homes to back off or Watson will be killed. Holmes appears to agree and Watson returns unharmed. Holmes then foils an attempt to kill himself by telling Watson to go over and shut the open window in the empty house opposite. When Watson does this, he believes he is too late to stop a sniper killing his friend. However Holmes has followed him into the house and explains that he put a bust of Julius Caesar behind the lighted window to give the impression that he was at home. Do you notice, he asks Watson .that all great men appear to have long noses? The sniper has been hypnotised. When they discovered the body of Sir George Fenwick he was clutching in his hand a match folder from the nightclub. The sniper is then himself killed as he is being led away. What is surprising at this point is that Homes is also not killed in the same event.

Holmes then makes friends with the woman he saw at the nightclub and she takes him back to the house where his drink is spiked with a sedative which makes him amenable to being hypnotised. Moriarty enters and arranges for Homes to write a suicide note and then go out to the ledge on the apartment balcony and jump to his death. Watson and the police arrive to arrest the criminals. Holmes has only pretended to by hypnotised having taken a drug to give the impression of being under the influence. Moriarty tries to escape but appears to fall to hid death from a pipe which gives way, Moriarty falls to his death three times in this series but manages to survive and to appear again. The film lasts less than 70 minutes and would have been regarded as a made for TV series in more recent times.

The Spy in Black

Also memorable but not as convincing is The Man in Black. I do not mean Valentine Dyall from the radio but Conrad Veidt who plays a submarine Captain Hardt who is sent on a mission to gain intelligence by making contact with local agents in the Orkney Islands before making an attack on the British Fleet at Scarpa Flow. This 1939 film portrays the German Navy at their home port in the same way as British Officers rather than as Nazi controlled Germany. This is very odd.

The film has a clever device in which Valerie Hobson plays two roles as Frau Tiel the German spy who gets to the Orkney’s to take up the post of a school mistress, and as Jill Blacklock the school mistress appointed to the post. The twist in the tale will come later as Jill is kidnapped on her way to the Islands and replaced by Frau Tiel who distances herself from the local vicar and his wife who suggest she should take lodging rather than live on her own, given the nature of the community full of naval officers and ratings on shore leave. She successful passes the strict security system which is enforced before anyone is allowed to get on the mainland ferries, and also on the island and interestingly the expectation of security is that there will be spies.

The twist in the tale is that in fact Hobson is not playing the German Spy but a British Intelligence agent after the spy has been captured. She also develops feelings for the Submarine Captain who is clearly a man of honour trying to do his duty. Similarly the British Naval officer who has been passed over and is providing the Germans with the intelligence of British fleet location is in fact another intelligence officer and I cannot remember if he is the brother or husband of Valerie (as intelligence officer pretending to be spy pretending to be the school teacher). To add to potential confusion about who is what or actually not as they seem the Valerie Hobson school teacher has a fiancée who is a Vicar, and who gets permission to visit his wife to be, only to find that she is not but he cannot hide his reactions in time so he is kidnapped but manages to escape and goes off to rescue his future partner.

Veidt also escapes and on the ferry back to the mainland on which Hobson is also travelling are also German naval prisoners of war. Veidt manages to release these and together they take over the ferry. The ferry is shelled and sunk by the U Boat but the passengers escape in the life boats. Part of the British fleet is on hand to sink the submarine so they are available to pick up the passengers, Veidt and the prisoners.

The great Bernard Miles plays a German Barman and Graham Stark as a hotel bellboy. Sebastian Shaw plays the naval intelligence man and Marius Goring plays Lt Shuster, the second in command of he Submarine who we see in Germany with Veidt before the mission commences and who takes over command of the sub. The interesting and commendable aspect of this film is that is not a black and white propaganda film but shows two sets of officers trying to do their duty for their respective homelands. This was a Michael Powell directed film produced by the great Alexander Korda and with the script written by Emeric Pressburger along with Roland Pertwee and J Storer Clouston who wrote the original novel. Powell and Pressburger went on to make 20 films together. I have seen this film before in television and may have seen the original in theatre

The Left Hand of God

The Left hand of God has a great screen play for a moving story of the power of faith. This 1955 film was one of those which took my birth and care mothers together with their elder sister to the cinema as I reached adolescence and went to work at the age of sixteen and discovered live classical music, traditional and modern Jazz together with Swing, cycling and of course sex. There was the opportunity see the film once more, experienced at least once previously on the small screen. The story, based on a book by William Edmond Barrett, is that of an American Pilot who crashed in China during World War II and who is rescued by a Warlord who treats him as a trusted friend but also as a prisoner. When a replacement Catholic missionary priest Father O’Shea is killed by one of the men, the former pilot, Jim Carmady, played by Humphrey Bogart, takes his identity as a means of escape and goes to the mission for sanctuary until the next protected caravan will take him to the coast and freedom.

The Missionary post comprises a clinic hospital with an all purpose doctor and his wife who runs the school, and a nurse played by Gene Tierney, a young widow. The doctor has become cynical and anxious because of the local villages have stopped bringing their sick, the country is approaching civil war and anxiety about the warlord who so far as left them and the nearby Anglican mission alone. He and his wife feel there is something not quite right about their new man and becomes even more concerned when the nurse begins to show indications of reacting to the new arrival as a man.

It is evident that the arrival is a Catholic with a knowledge of the church in that he can give a blessing, and a sermon, but evades saying mass or giving the last rights saying he has lost his vestments and other essential kit which will have to be replaced. His live in assistant advises that some forty marriages and thirty christenings have accumulated. He begins to have an impact by asking to be blessed by the oldest man in the nearest village, by being able to speak Chinese and proving he is a man of the people with their interests at heart. On one hand he begins to like the role but on the other realises the potential damage he is doing. Unknown to everyone he manages to get a letter through to the Bishop in which he reveals the situation and the needs of the community. When he gets word that two priests are being sent by caravan he decides to tell Tierney the truth the night before their arrival.

Previously, his whereabouts becomes known to the Warlord who descends on the village threatening to burn it and the neighbouring Anglican parish to the ground unless Bogart returns. Bogart offers to play dice for his and the village freedom giving himself up for a further five years if he loses. He wins twice to save his and then the Anglican parish. This makes him a local legend. The priests arrive and tell Bogart that he will remain as a priest until he reaches the Bishop. Bogart has offered himself to be subject to the discipline of the church in exchange for responding to the needs of the local community. The senior priest is impressed by the genuine affection the community has for the departing man and Bogart leaves we are given the impression that the priest will write the kind of report to the Bishop suggesting that Bogart should be trained for the priesthood. Tierney has also rediscovered her faith as the situation becomes clear to her. The Doctor and his remain in ignorance but they too have found their calling reinforced.

Bogart is not as convincing in the role of the priest as Richard Burton in his role as the Whisky priest but has far more authenticity than say Bing Crosby in The Bells of Saint Mary. Lee J Cobb is also convincing as the Warlord and a good script and al round good acting make this film memorable

The 2011 B.A.F.T. A's

Last night the British Academy Awards took place at the Royal Opera House. The King’s Speech carried off all the major awards with one exception, that for Direction. I was particularly pleased that Geoffrey Rush took the BAFTA for best supporting actor as did Helena Bonham Carter who also played the Queen of Hearts in Alice. The films not only one the Best British Picture but also the Best Picture over all, I was also pleased that David Seidler was awarded for his screen play. He was similarly afflicted as a young person and was influenced by the struggle of the King. He write to the Queen mother to say that he wanted to wrote the screenplay but she responded saying please not in my lifetime. He kept his word and then the struggle was to find the finances for a film which although cost under £10 million was regarded as not having great appeal even though a fantastic cast was lined up as willing to participate, The film also won best music and fo course it became quickly clear that Colin Firth would win the Vest Actor as he had the Golden Globe. And can look forward to a knighthood in later life.

Talking of knighthoods the academy awarded the exceptionally frail and exceptionally talented Sir Christopher Lee, now aged 88 years with its Fellowship. He had appeared in more films than anyone over 250 from hammer horrors, to the Lord Summerisle in the Wicker Man, Scaramanga in James Bond as the man with the Golden Gun and Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. Natalie Portman Herslag is a remarkable Israeli American
who has a degree is psychology from Harvard and for the Bafta and Golden Globe winning Performance in the Black Swan, under her stage name of Portman, swam 1 mile every morning for a year while she trained as a ballet dancer

The Social Network about Facebook Social Interaction and Inception, about dreams and reality, were also rewarded. For various reasons I decided against seeing any of these films in theatre but look forward to seeing them in about two years time on Sky. I did see Alice in Wonderland which won two awards and will see True Grit which also won an award and where I have viewed the originals in the past week. Interestingly the young girl is played by a young girl in her first film role. There was also an honourable mention for Made in Dagenham with Miranda Richardson for support actress for her role as Barbara Castle.

I was disappointed that no way was found to honour Pete Postlethwaite who died during the year although his performance in the Town was included as best supporting actor. There is always a moving list of those who have died over the year and every year there are an increasing number of those whose work I have enjoyed, sometimes loves and whose personalities became well regarded with Tony Curtis perhaps the most well known. Norman Wisdom had his exceptionally funny moments along with much that was silly. Susannah Yorke was an English rose and a political radical while Patricia Neal made fine films. Leslie Neilson was not everyone’s cuppa of tea and much was silly while Dennis Hopper had a good history. Ingrid Pitt was perhaps more notorious than brilliant. I will catch up with the others when the a similar list is remembered at the Oscars.

Another disappointment is that the Kids are Alright where Annette Banning and Julianne Moore were nominated for leading actress did not win in other categories. Girl with a Dragon Tattoo made in Swedish won Best Foreign film and is on my wish list. Other nominated films which I also wish to see are Another Year Mike Leigh and Jarvier Bardem in Biutiful. I have no inclination to see 127 hours which is about a man who had to cut off his arm in order to live and did so.

A special award went to the creator and the film makers of the Harry Potter series for their contribution to British cinema and to national income! More on Harry Potter another day although the series failed to engage to same level as Tolkien.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

St Valentine's Day Murder

The provision of entertaining fun is not the intention of the film about the St Valentine’s day Massacre selected for showing along with the start of the Boardwalk Empire here in the UK. The massacre involved the shooting of five members of the Irish North side Chicago gang led by Bugs Moran by other gangsters working on behalf of Al Capone’s Italian Mafia. Two others were murdered. One a self employed mechanic who accepted jobs with the gang to feed his wife and seven children and someone who can be described as a gang groupie. The intention of the raid had been to kill Moran after Capone lost his temper with the intrusion of the North side gang in what he regarded as his territory.

One of the historical mysteries is the identities of two men who posed as policemen to gain entry to the location where the those murdered were assembled in preparation for an attack on Capone. The film creates two individuals who remain unknown, The film also shows Capone personally executing a Mafia senior after he had connived in the murder of a top Mafia boss in Chicago because he was a friend of Capone. Joe Aiello was turned by Moran in his attempt to take over Capone before Capone took over him. It was Capone’s men who did the killing and the event occurred after the massacre. The massacre took place in a Canadian nightclub and not against the wall of a garage in Chicago.

The film does recreate Moran’s attempt to kill Capone as he was dining at his favourite restaurant when a score of cars went by the front of the restaurant in groups of three or four from which gunmen with Tommy gins showered the entrance doors and widows with bullets. Amazingly no one is shown to have been killed in the film. There is also one of those amazing funeral scenes in which their huge banks of flowers including one from Capone who had arranged the killing. A voice in the background tells the cinema goer basic facts about the various gangster what happened to them with the exception of two whose details were removed at the request of surviving family members(Wikipedia).

I watched the film despite my reservations about such films and the glorification of murderers and their criminality for entertainment purposes because of making my assessment of the first two episodes of the award winning Boardwalk Empire and where the third episode, reduced to one hour including adverts, was shown on Saturday evening.

When Nucky finds out that one of the New York’s mob’s men killed by his protégé Jimmy has been found alive he arranges for the man to be killed by his police chief brother. The killing is stopped as Federal agents arrive and bluff their way to taking the man with them out of the clutches of the locals. The man initially refuses to “rat” on his killers, a feature of era when the law was the common enemy and the gangsters preferred to settle their disputes themselves. However the information is provided which enables Jimmy to be identified but when the information is communicated upwards it is sat on passed back to Nucky who arranges for Jimmy to leave his “wife” and children and go West. The information is also passed on to the New York gang led by Rothstein. Rothstein shares the information with Lucky Luciano that it was Jimmy and one other who killed the nephew of his sister in law and suggests that Jimmy is captured and made to reveal the other individual.

Before this Jimmy had become incensed on finding that while he was away in the way his wife and son had become friendly with a photographer and his wife and she had taken an alluring photo which had been sent to him. He now goes off as instructed by Nucky without explaining to his wife and children why or giving her the money for her care. Instead of going West Jimmy heads for Chicago.

Nucky has also arranged for the Irish widow he fancies to get a job in a French dress salon. She is required to wear the dresses and aid he customers in trying them on and this enables shots of underwear and flesh. Nucky’s current show girl/actress whore cones for a fitting and realises that her man has a new interest. The man who ran the funeral home whisky diluting scam goes to see his bosses to say that Nucky gave away their racket to his black friend. They say that the man remains financially accountable.

Nucky has been forced to strike a hard deal with the new owner manager of the scam. They then find one of the employees killed in what appears to be a race murder. However they do not want an escalating race in election year so the hanged employee is shot and the situation made to look that he was killed by a jealous husband. Nucky unintentionally leaves a potential damaging set of footprints behind. . As before does anyone care about any of this? I do not but will continue to at least flip through in the

Rooster Cogburn

I am having a lazy lay in day because I felt like it.

I had intended to combine my notes on True Grit with Fort Apache the second John Wayne film experienced once more over the weekend together with the third film The High and Mighty. I came over tired and decided to recommence the following morning. It was only then that I saw that the sequel to True Grit was showing during the day. The ingredients are much the same in that Rooster lives with his cat at the store of the man from China. However his constant state of inebriation has led to losing his main means of employment with the consequence he has to take on commissions.

His job is to track and capture a gang who have terrorised a village in the Indian Territory, killing an aged preacher whose spinster daughter is played by Katherine Hepburn in a reprise of her role in the African Queen. The two assisted by an Indian young man no more than a boy managed to capture a wagon which the gang want because it contains a Gatlin gun and cases of nitro-glycerine. The trio appear to be cornered at their overnight camp but manage to spook the horses of the gang and contrary to expectations are able to use the Gatlin Gun because of the prior knowledge of the missionary’s daughter who is also a great shot.

Their next obstacle is when they borrow a cross river raft to go down stream and they over come the eight men of the gang in three confrontations and also overcome the white water rapids. They persuade the last four to come towards the raft claiming that Rooster is badly wounded and having released some of the cases of nitro in the water ahead of them. These Wayne ignites blowing the remaining men to pieces. This may well seem a great end but Roster had agreed to bring the men back to be tried before bible quoting Judge Parker without killing them if he was to be trusted to be reinstated. Fortunately the Judge is no match for Hepburn who is able quote the bible back at the judge(John McIntire) with greater dexterity but what clinches the argument is when she claims to have been responsible for the killing and not Rooster, subsequently quoting again that the end justifies the means, which of course it rarely does and never if the means are similar to those which the end is seeking to remedy.

Hepburn off with the Indian boy back to help the village recover from its recent trauma and has the last word over Wayne as he goes back to his old job. They both have complimentary things to say to each other but as with the first film words of affection is the closest they get to a relationship. This was the last but one film Wayne was to make before his death.

The High and Mighty

A film that was also something of a first, is The High and the Mighty, with a specially create opening tune which became a best seller and where I carry the notes in my head although unable to reproduce tunefully! The Oscar winning score was created by Dmitri Tomkin. This was one of the first, if not the first, suspense potential plane disaster movies and guess who stars as the hero?
You are right it is none other than John Wayne.

He is the second in command to flight captain played by Robert Stack. Robert Newton, he of Long John Silver, plays a calming philosophical passenger and other well known names are Clare Trevor and Jan Stirling.

The first part of the film introduces us to all the passengers which includes a school boy returning home on this trans orient pacific Douglas DC4 from Honolulu to San Francisco. There is the Jewishman with a large family waiting for him and a business full of bluster and threats to mask his fear; An actress in decline and an experienced woman looking for a long term relationship has pretended through the use of make up to be at least ten years younger than she is. A couple where the wife is terrified and in a panic worries about her preschool children at home and so on so that we cover all the passengers on board as well as the crew

Then after the plane has reached the point of no return in severe weather conditions, one of the engines catches fire and there is a loss of fuel. At first the navigator believes they have enough fuel to get home without having to ditch in the sea but then realises he has made a mistake using kilometres rather than mile or vice versa. This is discovered only when they have not reached the contact position with a USA aircraft which comes out to meet and escort them back in the event of trying to make a landing in the sea. They have prepared for the ditching by jettisoning luggage including on board food. This involves reducing height and speed to be able to open the door in mid air flight. It is also hoped that by this action to reach land by conserving fuel. However it is a gamble with the risk of crash on land and killing those on the ground as well as themselves.

I missed if it was revealed why Wayne had become second in command having been a captain in the past. It is however evident that he is more confident and experienced than the captain who panics and wants to ditch without trying to make land. However he gets his act together as do passengers and crew and guess what the plane reaches the airport safely and the passengers disembark hounded by reporters to be greeted by their friends and families. This includes a man in a wheel chair who has made friends with a stewardess and the passenger in the seat, an oriental woman who have both accepted his invitation to go immediate for meal with him.

The crew look at the damaged aircraft in wonderment and respect together with the airline boss who indicates to Wayne that they must have a chat about his future. The plane used in the film had previously been the personal aircraft of Juan Peón and was named the Argentine Queen. A similar aircraft experienced a similar in flight problem later and was lost with no survivors thus revealing the difficult of a craft being able to land safely in high seas to launch the life raft. Many leading actors of the day were offered parts but refused because of ensemble nature of the story, including Barbara Stanwyck, Dorothy McGuire, Dorothy McGuire, Ginger Rogers, Ida Lupino and Joan Crawford. Jan Stirling was awarded the best supporting actress Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar together with Claire Trevor. The film is based on the book by Ernest K Gann who had flown a commercial airline from Honolulu to Portland in Oregon

Fort Apache

I am having a lazy lay in day because I felt like it.

I had intended to combine my notes on True Grit with Fort Apache the second John Wayne film experienced once more over the weekend. The film, Fort Apache is the first part of a John Ford Cavalry trilogy with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande, This 1948 film is reputed to have been the first to begin to show the true story of what happened to the North American indigenous population as the new arrivals exploited, slaughtered, manipulated, deprived and betrayed one way or another the land owners and nationals for their own betterment and greed. What rthe European settles was no different from the Nazi and Communist occupations in Europe in the last century There was much applause with the election of President Obama to the White House. The real challenge is for a native American to be elected.

The story of the film is the clash between a Captain (John Wayne) as an experienced officer having commanded his own regiment in the civil war, overlooked for the command of an isolated outpost by a northern West Point graduate Lieutenant Colonel and Civil War General (Henry Fonda). The problem is that Fonda has been sent with a mission to get the Indians Apache in the film Sioux in reality to return to their reservation from Mexico where they have taken shelter he has no previous knowledge of their culture and fighting skills. Wayne volunteers to approach the Indians with a Spanish speaking officer as interpreter and persuade them to return offering peace and a negotiated resettlement.

The Indians have left their Reservation because of the corrupt government Indian agent and Wayne promises that their grievances will be addressed. Fonda responds by seizing the opportunity for a take it or leave ultimatum and then charges four abreast into trap which results in his men being slaughtered.
Before then we have the drama of the commander refusing to allow his teenage daughter to marry the young officer son of a Sergeant Major non commissioned officer simply because of social inequality and personal prejudice. There is also the usual boys will be boys drink and fighting and the formal dance arranged by the non commissioned officers at with the officers and their families are invited. The daughter is played by Shirley Temple.

Although stubborn, incompetent to the point of irresponsibility Fonda is a man of honour so when Wayne rescues him, he goes off on a individual charge back into the valley where the remaining men are facing death against what were overwhelming forces. Previously he has ordered Wayne to stay with the supply wagons after his attack plan is questioned but eh also insisting that the Sergeant’s boyfriend accompanies him.

The film ends with Wayne un charge of the fort with Fonda’s daughter now married and with a child adn the slaughter men replaced by new recruits, A number of journalists are present as Wayne is about to go off to try again an negotiate a settlement with the Indians. The newsmen noting a painted portrait of Fonda above the fireplace in the Commander’s office comment that he had become a national hero. Wayne does not refute the popular view uttering sentimental nonsense about the regiment always living on. Among others in the cast is Victor McLaglen

Monday, 7 February 2011

True Grit 1969

Now for a film. A remake of True Grit created by the Coen Brothers has been released in British Cinemas this week and like the original is in the running for Oscars. John Wayne achieved his only Oscar success with the film given more as reward for his long career rather than the specific acting performance which should have gone to the 14 year old Teenage daughter of a murdered rancher played by Kim Darby then aged in her early twenties. The girl lived with her father, mother, younger brother and baby sister and ranch hand circ 1880. Another rancher has killed her father, stolen cash in hand, a couple of gold coins and a horse. She goes into the local town to arrange for father to have a better coffin grave stone and sent back to the ranch and to find get the Sheriff to go after the murderer.

Bearing in mind she is only fourteen she appears confident, feisty, determined and courageous. She does a deal with Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to go after the man for $100 with a down payment of $25. He is a Federal Marshal able to travel in Indian reservation territory where as the local Sherriff has no jurisdiction. She then talks to the local horse dealer forcing him to pay for four geldings sold as breeding horses to her father and also compensation for other items involved in the actions of the murders, making a total of $300. She had threatened him with her lawyer as she also threatened Wayne when he started to renege on the deal between them.

The girl stays a local rooming house where also arrive Texas Ranger Le Boeuf played by the sing songwriter Glen Campbell. He plays a straight role although sings the opening ballad. The music for the film was composed by Elmer Bernstein. Campbell is also after the man whose killed her father who killed a Texan politician whose family has employed the Ranger. He is a rival with Rooster for the reward money but agree to join forces, including that they should make the venture alone when the girl insists in travelling with them. They have a lead that their man has participated in a railway hold up with a gang whose leader is someone Rooster has been after for sometime. This is Luck Ned Pepper who survived being show by Rooster in the past. The man is played by a young Robert Duvall. Also a member of the gang is Moon played another young star in the making, Dennis Hopper.

After several days they plan to spend the night in a cabin only to find it occupied by two horse thieves (one is Hopper) waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive for the fresh horses the two have stolen. Eventually these two die, one at the hands of the other, and two of the rest of the gang of four but not the two most wanted men. The four men are brought into the nearest town for reward and burial.

The trio then go off after the rest and the girl accidentally comes across her father’s filler as she goes to wash in a near river when they have camped for the night. The exciting climax results in her father’s gun misfiring and in her capture until rescued by Wayne and Campbell and they capture her father’s killer. However Wayne becomes involved in a shoot out with the other man and three of his henchmen and is then trapped under his dead horse. Campbell is the overcome by the remaining killer and in the struggle the girl falls into a pit with lethal snakes. She is then rescued as first the father killer is himself gunned down. However Campbell who has been shot dies after helping Wayne to get her out fo the pit. Wayne then has to d ride and drive fast as the girl is bitten by one fo the snakes. He gets her to the nearest town to her home where she remains very ill for some time. Wayne then finds that the lawyer she talked about is real when he calls to settle the hire and also to give a bonus for saving her life. He then visits her when she is still recovering from the broken arm sustained in the fall and she shows him the family plot. She offers him a place which he says he may well take up, in time.

The film is based on a novel by Charles Portis published only a year before. The novel is in the form of the girl who has become an old woman recounting her story. La Boeuf survives his head injury in the novel. In the book the girl has to have her arm amputated. Rooster is supposed to be 40 years of age in the book with Wayne aged and looking is 61. The book is set in winter to communicate a harsher reality than the autumn of the film. While the film does follow the place names of the book it shows a different environment. In addition tot eh remake there was a sequel in which Wayne is the centre of attention called Rooster Cogburn

Although Kim Darby came to international fame as a result of the film, he subsequent career in film and Tm never brought her the same attention. She married five times, some briefly as well as known to have affairs with two known actors. Her last film role was in 2007 (Dead Letters) and on TV in an X files production in 1999. She continues to make guest celebrity appearances

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Harry Brown

Harry Brown is a film which every politician, policeman, media worker, social and community worker should see, not because it is a great film or because of the questionable morality, but because it paints an accurate picture of the teenage gang world on particular local authority run estates of flat block tenements. Although not a great film there is a brilliant performance of Michael Caine, one of his finest.

He is Harry Brown an ex marine with decorated service in Northern Island who suffers from emphysema and is struggling on his own as his wife lays dying in hospital. Apart from visiting her he plays chess with a friend at the estate pub close to a canal. At the pub his friend notices that the Inn keeper is allowing a young thug drug trafficker to trade on the premises, One night he observers the estate gang of hoodies beat up a visitor who complains about the youths damaging his car. Harry observers but takes no action. Harry also avoids the quick route traffic safe underpass to the pub because it is controlled by the hoodies. Harry wants to live and let live and warns his chess playing friend about talking out loud about the behaviour of the youth in the pub.

The friend joins Harry at the cemetery as Harry visits the grave of his wife after she dies. The Friend asks Harry about his service days and did he ever kill someone. Harry says this is something he has not talked about since meetings and marrying his wife. The reason for this question is that his friend, played by the also excellent David Bradbury, has become scared and stressed by the estate gangs who had put excrement through his letter box and scrawled graffiti and then pushed through lighted papers cause a minor fire. He shows Caine a bayonet which he is now carrying in self defence. Caine is concerned at this and tells him to report the situation to the police. He says he has done this with no change in the situation.

A short while afterwards his friend is hacked to death with the bayonet and later the same female police Inspector calls with her sergeant who advised of the death, to say that because it looks as if the Bayonet belonged to the friend and they will have to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter. Caine comments that’s if the case ever gets to court.

From the vantage point of the trashed flat of his friend he observes the underpass gang beating up another young man attempting to go through the passageway with his girl friend who they start to assault. The young man and the girl manage to get away but unable to continue their planned journey.

This in retrospect in the incident where Harry says to himself enough is enough. The trigger for taking action occurs after he leaves the pub and goes along the canal path and is stopped by a drug addict to demand the money he has on him brandishing a knife. Caine manages to turn the knife back onto the man who dies. Caine returns home and takes off all his clothing which he bins. The police assume the death of a known addict is the result of some dispute. Caine now goes to a drug suppliers who are also known to sell guns. They appear crazed and dangerous and lead Caine through a cannabis growing area to where they keep the weapons. There is a girl in a drug stupor who appears to be in a coma. Caine expresses concern but this is ignored and he is invited to abuse the girl and they offer to sell him Viagra if required.

When they produce the weapon, Caine stabs one of the two men in order to get hold of the gun and then kills the two mean setting fire to their place as he leaves, but taking the unconscious girl out to the trafficker’s four wheeled vehicle and leaving the girl outside the accident and emergency unit of the nearest hospital.

He had taken away the supply of weapons and ammunition and also finds several thousands pounds. He leave £1000 with the girl and gives the rest to a local church. The female Inspector who asked to work in the area begins to have suspicions about Caine and has undertaken some work about his background. The situation comes to a head when Caine watches one of the underpass gang get drugs from a dealer in car. There is a row about payments with the consequence that one of the gang goes with the man in a car to bring him sexual relief. Caine manages to track them down (this is least plausible aspect of the film) and shoots the drug dealer and takes the young man prisoner. He takes him to the home of his former friend and starts to torture him. To save his life he gives Caine his mobile phone on which there is film of the killing and the killer.

This is one of the young men who was interviewed by the police and who behaves aggressively especially to the police Sergeant who was responsible for getting the conviction of the youth’s father. Caine uses the youth, he has taken prisoner, as a shield to approach the killer and another who are at the point of having sex with two local girls in the underpass. There is a shoot out and two of the three youths are killed but the killer runs off along the canal bank where Caine collapses from his lung condition, throwing the gun into the canal.

The local police commander believes that a drug war has broken out and decided on zero tolerance approach planning a raid on the homes of a dozen suspects from the estate and calls a meeting to plan the action. Instead of attending the meeting the Police Inspector and her Sergeant calls in at the hospital to see Caine where he has been kept since discovered on the tow path. She believes he is responsible for the spate of deaths and this is reinforced when she smells cordite on some clothing. The area commander is not interested when the two return late for the briefing and announces that he has arranged for the Inspector to be transferred to a different type of police work.

The films then reaches its climax. Caine decides to leave the hospital and makes his way home. The police raid commences and local youth riot as the arrests begin. They use petrol bomb against he police with riot shields. The Police Inspector and the Sergeant have also gone to the raid and their vehicle is ambushed and badly damaged. Caine arrives and gets them out where the Sergeant is wounded and needs hospital treatment. He takes him and the Inspector to the local pub where he asks the landlord to call for an ambulance. He goes to find what is keeping the landlord while the Inspector calls for help on her phone. He finds that the landlord is not making the call and that the landlord is not only the uncle of the killer but hiding him. There is a fight and Caine appears to be knocked out. The landlord then kills the injured Sergeant with his hands and tells his nephew to get rid of the police Inspector in the same way. Caine revives and has a second gun at his ankle and shoots the young killer before he is able to kill the police inspector. However the landlord is able gain control of the situation until we the audience can see that a police marksman has targeted him and he is shot dead.

The film ends with the area commander holding a media conference to comment on the results of the inquiry into the situation. He announces that bravery medals have been awarded to the Sergeant and the Police Inspector who is present. He then goes on to dismiss rumour about a vigilante being responsible for some of the killings. The Inspector leaves the briefing satisfied or keeping her mouth shut as Harry had saved her life. The final scene is Harry using the underpass which is clean, quiet and safe.
The film has a better quality than the Dirty Harry series for example. No civilised person will support the taking of the law into ones own hands in the way of Caine in this film although we can understand his frustration. In addition to excellent acting performance of Caine I felt the portrayal of the young men was authentic from my experience of such individuals. Apart from the weekend teenage audience I cannot think many will regard this film as entertaining but it will remain an important social document.