Commentary by Anita: 2018 I’m Analog TV

Hello!  Welcome 2018!

As I’m sure you folks noticed I’ve been off the grid for a couple of months.  It is great to be back.  I’m looking forward to reading your take on what you (or we) have been watching.  I want to give a BIG THANK YOU to George for keeping us informed with his take on film.  Also, what a great variety he has shared.  Agree with his take on a film or not, it is wonderful reading.

 

Before going into a movie or two I’d like to share with you what my day to day viewing has been since I’ve been absent.  Analog TV.  Yep.  No more dish nor am I streaming anything.  Standard TV.  It has been the bee’s knees.  I invite all of you to give it a try.  No more reality TV– not plagued with tons of infomercials about how to get skinny in 30 minutes.  Followed by another infomercial centered on a pot or pan I must own to eat healthy and never have to wash a dish again.  Nope, just regular TV, such as Colombo.  I’ve blogged Colombo in the past so you folks know I’m a fan– getting to watch it every Saturday night has been so much fun.  BatMan with Adam West is on Saturday nights as well.  This last week Liberace guest starred, playing two roles (both villains) and it was POW!  Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter is part of that line up.  The particular episode I watched guest stared Eric Braeden who is the one and only Victor Newman from Young and Restless.  We all know what kind of nasty character Victor Newman is; he didn’t let me down in the 1970’s super hero serial.  In color!   Analog is more fun then TV Land.  There is a movie channel as well.  Older films and lots of Westerns alongside of who done it’s and some really terrific film noir.  I just watched a 1966 Western The Professionals.  You can look for my take on that in following articles.  January 8th was a fun filled day of Elvis Presley movies. Everything from G.I. Blues to Blue Hawaii.  Really jolly movies.  What a talent.   My pop corn popper has been getting a lot of use.  OH!  Best part I do have an old 1970 air popper and pop corn never tasted so well.

 

Speaking of lost talent I’ve really enjoyed watching many of today’s stars in their beginning roles.  It has also been a treat to see many of the talents we have lost on the small screen.  Variety shows, game shows and original nightly dramas are all on stations such as METV, or COZY.  Even PBS is more fun.

 

Well, I’m done preaching to you analog.  I am glad to be back.  Excited to get some ideas and thoughts to you all.  Anxious to read your thoughts, so let’s get chatting.

 

 

 

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Shadow of a Doubt (1942) – reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 30th film, and 6th shot in America, is an evil-comes-to-smalltown-America thriller, contrasting the openness of a welcoming family with the ruthlessness of a three-time killer who happens to be a relative – welcomed unquestioningly into their home. Teresa Wright is the oldest of three Newton children and the one named after the killer; she is called Charlie. Joseph Cotton plays the monster Charles (Charley) Oakley, the Merry Widow killer who has murdered three wealthy women for their money.
His sister, Charlie’s mother, Emma Newton (Patricia Collinge) is an absolutely doting older sister to Charley, and of course could never even conceive of his doing anything bad. But Oakley, with his charming manner which takes in everyone he meets, is aware that detectives are searching the entire country for him and he has a strong streak of self-protection. So strong in fact that when he sees that Charlie is curious about why he tore up part of her Dad’s newspaper, and that she seems to be distancing herself from him, when she previously worshipped him and couldn’t wait for another visit with this charming uncle from a much more sophisticated world, he begins to think of simply disposing of Charlie and the danger to him that she seems to be becoming.
And then two detectives show up asking questions, and when the younger man Jack Graham (Macdonald Carey) and Charlie begin to fall for each other, which means that Jack is around much more, well, Charlie has to go.
The other Newtons, dad Joseph, and younger sister and brother Ann and Roger, are played by Henry Travers (with his hair dyed black), Edna May Wonacott, and Charles Bates. Jack’s partner Fred Saunders is played by Wallace Ford, and Hume Cronyn has an important part as Joseph’s best friend and neighbor Herbie Hawkins.
This is good stuff, and constantly interesting. All the performances are good, but Patricia Collinge is a standout, steadfast in her faith in a brother whom, if she would admit it, she hardly knows after so many years. But she still sees the little boy that he was, and loves him without reservation. Maybe that type of faith is what Hitchcock is warning us against.
From an original story by Gordon McDonell, Screenplay by Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson, and Alma Reville, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
And now we see why the script portrays small town life and people so well. Wilder wrote “Our Town” and Benson wrote “Meet Me in St. Louis”.

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Mountains of the Moon (1989) – reviewed by George

A film about Richard Burton (Patrick Bergin) and John Hanning Speke (Iain Glen) as they search Africa for the source of the Nile treats us to a sort of non-fictional “King Solomon’s Mines”. The term “non-fictional”, however, is arguable since additional reading has prompted me to have some doubts about historical accuracy.
The East Cost of Africa, 1854: Speke arrives with an arsenal, but can’t get permission from the British Colonial Service to go inland. He goes to Burton, who fancies himself “Ptolemy, Napoleon”, and wants to discover the source of the Nile and to find gold. Speke likes that idea – as the younger son of a wealthy man, he basically has little money. Burton notes that the natives call the Nile’s source the mountains of the moon, and he takes Speke on as a subordinate – Speke’s guns influence that decision somewhat. That first expedition ends abruptly when a carefully planned native assault on their group leaves only three survivors: Burton, Speke, and Burton’s oldest native assistant. But they did discover Lake Tanganyika.
Back in England Burton gives a rousing speech to the Royal Geographic Society, and the Society agrees to sponsor a second expedition.
Burton was older than Speke, but Speke had done a good deal of exploring exotic sites on his own and now was the co-leader of this second expedition, but still listed under Burton. They get to Africa, hire porters and linguists, and set out for the interior. Along the way they both have serious illnesses, and there are run-ins with tribes who had been led to think that any foreigner was a slaver. The film is exciting, while still being somewhat educational. At the crucial point Burton was too ill to travel, so Speke went on with a small crew and discovered Lake Victoria. He was sure that it was the source of the Nile and he was right, but it was largely due to gut-feeling, since he had no equipment for measuring the height of the lake, and was unable to walk around it, because of its very large size. Burton was convinced that the lake was not the source of the Nile. When Speke arrived back in England, the movie supposes that his publisher Oliphant (Richard E. Grant) told him that Burton’s report to the military called Speke inexperienced and cowardly, and Oliphant used this to get Speke to go ahead and speak to the National Geographic Society (to much acclaim) about the discovery of the source of the Nile, therefore hyping sales of Speke’s journal. Since Burton and Speke had agreed that neither would speak until they could appear together, Burton never trusted him again.
On the day before they were finally scheduled to appear before the Society together Speke died in a hunting accident. The movie makes it clear that it was suicide due to the fact that Speke had just learned that Burton’s report actually gave Speke due credit and even stated that Speke had saved his life (true). However, in reading about the men, I read an argument that stated that the location of the wound makes suicide unlikely. So the film, while excellent, may or may not leave something to be desired in the factual area.
Some other players must be mentioned. Delroy Lindo plays Mabruki, one of the native crew leaders, who later served in Stanley’s expedition to find Livingstone, Fiona Shaw plays Burton’s wife Isabelle, and Roger Rees has a cameo at the end where he comes to Burton with the death mask he has made of Speke, saying that death distorts the features and he wants Burton’s opinion on accuracy. Burton then remolds the cheeks.
I liked the film; all my questions come from reading about the men after seeing the movie.
Based on the Biographical Novel “Burton and Speke” by William Harrison, and on Original Journals by Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, Screenplay by William Harrison and Bob Rafelson, Directed by Bob Rafelson.

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A Date with Judy (1948) – reviewed by George

This movie was made in the good years after WWII, when America, untouched by bombs and hand-to-hand fighting, was the major supplier of building materials such as steel to all the countries that were restoring their cities. In such prosperous times unions can ask for raises, and management will gladly share the wealth (because there’s so much of it). Consequently many workers became home-owners for the first time, and the ranks of the middle-class swelled. And in these happy times a teenage musical film based on a popular radio show could do boffo business at the box office.
The cast: Jane Powell at 19, Elizabeth Taylor at 16, Wallace Beery, Carmen Miranda, Robert Stack, Scotty Beckett, Leon Ames, Selena Royle, Clinton Sundberg, George Cleveland, Lloyd Corrigan, Lillian Yarbo, Jerry Hunter, and Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra.
This is pure fun with no big issues to worry you. Teen comedies are mostly about teen issues anyway, so how to treat your boyfriend when he’s your best friend’s brother is about as deep as you’re going to get. Okay, there’s some suspicion that Judy’s father, Mr. Foster (Wallace Beery), is having an affair in his office (yes, pretty preposterous place to conduct an affair), when he’s actually meeting with Rosita Conchellas (Carmen Miranda) to learn the rumba before his wedding anniversary. He just wants to surprise his wife (Selena Royle).
Judy (Powell) is the centerpiece of the show. Her parents, little brother Randolph (Hunter), Gramps (Cleveland), and cook/maid Nightingale (Yarbo) make up her family. Her best friend Carol Pringle (Taylor) lives with her wealthy father (Ames), brother Ogden, called Oogie (Beckett), and butler (Sundberg). Oogie and Judy have a song and dance number “We’re Strictly on the Corny Side” that is entertaining (and mentionable) primarily because of the dance.
Of course the two friends need an older man to fight over, and that is Stephen Andrews (Stack), who is working for the summer in Pops Scully’s Soda Fountain (Corrigan). And the fight leaves Oogie out in the cold.
There are two big hits that came out of the show: “It’s a Most Unusual Day” which is performed several times, most importantly at the end of the film at the Fosters’ anniversary party,  where each table where major players are sitting gets a closeup and takes over the soundtrack for a few lines of the song. The other song is “Cuanto le Gusta”, sung at the party by Carmen Miranda.
The movie is set in Santa Barbara, California, and opening narration pegs the population at 40,000, mentions that Main Street here is called State Street, and shows Pops Scully’s Soda Fountain. The most recent population figure I could find was 91,196 in 2014.
Some old movies seem dated, but not this one. High school issues just live on and on.
Based on Characters Created by Aleen Leslie, Screen Play by Dorothy Cooper and Dorothy Kingsley, Directed by Richard Thorpe.

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Vasiliy Livanov is Sherlock Holmes in “The Acquaintance” (1979) – reviewed by George

When I set up the list of Holmes movies and TV shows I wanted to review, I was as inclusive as I could be. The only consciously omitted group was anything in a foreign language. However a short while ago I stumbled across an Amazon listing of Sherlock Holmes TV programs in Russian (with English subtitles), and the reviews were simply ecstatic. Best ever Holmes, wonderful interpretation, fantastic, etc. So I decided to order, not the complete set, but the cheapest single-disc offering available – just as a sample. Well, I was very impressed, not just by Livanov as Holmes, but especially by Vitaly Solomin as Watson. The story was well-told, the production values were excellent, but the two actors were really the selling point. I ordered the complete set.
So here is my review of the first program in the series, broadcast in 1979. I’m sorry that this upsets my chronological presentation, but not sorry enough to fail to review this exceptional set of eight tales. In two months when I am done, we return to 1984 and start on Jeremy Brett.
In the Conan Doyle canon the first tale is “A Study in Scarlet”. Here the first story is “The Speckled Band”. But first the men must meet. A man who knows them both and knows that Watson is looking for a place to live, while Holmes is looking for someone to share expenses (the apartment is two bedrooms separated by a sitting room, where Holmes keeps all his chemistry equipment), introduces them. Watson looks around the place and decides to move in. Then strange things begin to happen: an old man arrives, goes upstairs, and disappears, a gang of street urchins arrives to make a loud report with all talking at once, and all this prompts Watson to comment that like Mrs. Hudson (Rina Zelenaya) he minds his own business, and Holmes replies that he likes to stick his nose into other people’s business. Their first real conversation actually begins as an argument  about Copernicus, but it expands and cleverly contrasts the two men. It’s rather wonderful.
There’s also an amusing bit about Holmes waking Watson in the middle of the night by playing the violin. And eventually Holmes reveals himself as a consulting detective.
Then their first case together! Holmes is visited by Ellen Stoner (Maria Solomina), who tells about the man, a Dr. Roylott (Gennady Bogachev), who returned from India and married her widowed mother, making Ellen’s life and that of her twin sister thoroughly miserable, and possibly hastening her mother’s death with all the friction. When Holmes asks specifically, Ellen says that there is nothing unusual about her mother’s will, she left everything to her husband, except that when each girl marries she is supposed to receive one-third of the estate. She says that her sister was engaged to be married and that the marriage was only days away when she died of a heart attack, talking wildly about the “motley ribbon”. Holmes wants to see the house and arranges a visit for himself and Watson when Dr. Roylott will be out for several hours. Holmes and Watson then hide with plans to stay overnight, and events proceed such that Holmes saves Miss Stoner’s life and solves the case.
Livanov is everything those Amazon reviews said. He conveys a sharp intelligence but with a wryness, a sense of humor, that is delightful. And Solomin is perfection: young, somewhat lacking in experience of the larger world, and for a change, younger than Holmes. The musical score by Vladimir Dashkevich is marvelous, with a theme that is very reminiscent of Victorian England as we know it from other films and programs.
I can’t wait to watch the next installment!
Written by Yuly Dunskey and Valery Frid, Directed by Igor Maslennikov.

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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009) – reviewed by George

Based on the book of short stories by David Foster Wallace, both the adaptation and the direction are from John Krasinski, who has created a psychological study of at least some of today’s men. A series of sh0rt interviews with a great variety in treatment and subject matter, some of the vignettes are funny, others are desperately serious, at least one is shocking, and most are revealing.
Sara (Julianne Nicholson) is the interviewer, who more or less lets the men ramble – talk about what they want to. The first interview shown is of a man who has coprolalia, but knows it. He is prone to not just random profanity at inappropriate moments, but consistently yells out, “Victory for the Forces of Democratic Freedom!” just before climax in all his sexual relationships (which never last long).
I found the most impressive set piece to be the one delivered by Frankie Faison, who talks about his father (Malcolm Goodwin), a Men’s Room attendant in an exclusive setting where only the rich and powerful are allowed to be in the building, much less the Men’s Room. As he discusses his father’s insistence on an immaculate white uniform and a credo of invisibility while providing white towels at the lavatories, it doesn’t sound like pride at all, but neither does it sound like animus. Then he says, “I haven’t seen my father since 1978, but know he’s still standing there all in white. I wear nothing white, not one white thing.”
The shocking story arc goes to Dominic Cooper as one of Sara’s students. As he talks on you may decide, as I did, that you know why he thinks as he does. And eventually he tells. Were you wrong or right?
The cleverest presentation features Christopher Meloni and Denis O’Hare as businessmen eating together in what looked to me like an upscale diner. While not exactly an interview, Sara is at a nearby table and records their conversation. Christopher talks about an encounter he had at an airport, and rails at any attempt Denis makes to comment or interpret. The “clever” comes in when the men walk into the flashback and continue to discuss the situation.
And Krasinski gives himself a long monologue as Sara’s boyfriend, telling her why he cheated, and I was totally unsympathetic (which I think is what he was going for). When he stopped speaking with, “Do you see how open I’m being with you here?”, I thought, “Do you want points?”. And then he goes on talking – a HUGE mistake.
At the end of the film Sara asks her department head (Timothy Hutton) if she can set up a series of interviews with men and tells him why she thinks it’s a good idea.
The other gentlemen in the cast, all of whom are good – I only have so much space, and want you to seek out the film for yourself – are: Will Arnett, Bobby Canavale, Michael Cerveris, Josh Charles, Will Forte, Ben Gibbard, Chris Messina, Max Minghella, Clarke Peters, Lou Taylor-Pucci, Ben Shenkman, Joey Slotnick, and Corey Stoll.
And Julianne Nicholson is amazing.

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Nia Vardalos in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” (2016) – reviewed by George

Seventeen years after the first wedding there is another wedding in the family, but this time it is Gus and Maria (Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan), who have discovered that the priest back in Greece 50 years ago did not sign the wedding certificate.
Their children Toula and Nick (Nia Vardalos and Louis Mandylor) and other relatives, Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), Uncle Taki (Gerry Mendicino), cousin Angelo (Joey Fatone), and all the rest of the tribe happily support Gus’s desire for a second chance at being married, but Maria becomes less and less sure she wants to do this as preparations go on.
And Gus is also really involved with getting Ian (John Corbett) and Toula’s daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) a Greek boyfriend now that she is a high school senior. And everyone is assuming that she will go to Northwestern, right there in Chicago, but Paris wants to go to New York University, partly to get away from the family. As Toula says, Greek families are close – very close – extremely close – and “see no difference between hugging and suffocating.”
The movie is full of funny lines and funny situations:
“Oh no! Spellcheck changed spanakopita to spina bifida!”
“I set you up with a girl from Holland.” “I don’t speak Hollandaise.”
Toula and Nick fighting over who is going to have to teach Gus how to use the computer.
Teaching Gus how to use the computer.
Gus stuck in the tub, and a shot of what looks like every Greek man in the neighborhood running down the sidewalk in the dark to get him out.
And there’s a really touching scene for Toula and Paris on Prom Night.
It’s not necessary to see the first movie before watching this one, but I think it would help to already know who everybody is. I enjoyed this a lot, and was especially impressed with how funny all the actors are.
It should be said that Gia Carides is back as Nikki, Bruce Gray and Fiona Reid return as Ian’s parents the Millers and they’ve learned how to spit, and Ian Gomez is back as Mike, but this time instead of being a fellow teacher with Ian, he’s got something to do with the police department.
Jayne Eastwood is still the uppity neighbor Mrs. White, but gets a little more human toward the end, Rob Riggle scores as the rep from Northwestern who visits the high school, Mark Margolis plays Gus’s brother who comes all the way from Greece for the wedding, and Rita Wilson and John Stamos play a Greek couple new to the church who have a son Gus thinks might be right for Paris. Too bad about his age.
So it’s a tale abut a family that comes across as very real, very human, very funny, and one that you would be lucky to have as neighbors (as long as you know a lot about Greek history, Greek etymology, and Alexander the Great).
Written by Nia Vardalos, Directed by Kirk Jones.

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Saboteur (1942) – reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 29th movie is about the thrilling chase of a spy/saboteur from an airplane plant in Glendale to the Statue of Liberty by the innocent man accused of destroying the plant and killing his best friend – and the girl he acquires as he runs.
Priscilla Lane and Robert Cummings star as the pair struggling against formidable odds to clear his name and catch the real spy, and they are at first hampered by her certainty that he is really guilty.
Barry Kane (Cummings) and his best friend Ken Mason (Jeffrey Sayre) are stepping out of the plant for whatever the night shift calls lunch, when they encounter another worker who just doesn’t quite ring true. When he drops some letters Barry retrieves them for him and sees that his name is Fry (Norman Lloyd). As Ken and Barry eat, a bomb, apparently an incendiary one, goes off in the plant. They rush for the fire extinguishers, and Fry hands one to Barry who passes it on to Ken, who is higher up on the ramp to the door. Ken runs into the plant and starts using the extinguisher, as a trail of fire begins to seal him off from the exit. Then as Barry looks on in horror, the entire floor flames up and Ken, surrounded by flames, falls.
When questioned by the authorities Barry tells the truth, but since there is no “Fry” on the company roster Barry is accused of the sabotage. The real horror comes when he is accused specifically of the murder of Ken – the extinguisher Fry handed up to Barry was filled with gasoline. Barry manages to escape and, remembering the address on Fry’s letter, he takes off after him. He finds a kindly grandfather, Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger), who is West Coast head of the spy ring and who summons the police. Barry barely escapes and this sets the stage for a series of encounters where trust or mistrust either speeds him on or threatens him with arrest.
At his next stop he meets Patricia “Pat” Martin (Lane) who doesn’t believe a word of his story, but gradually begins to see him for what he is rather than what her preconceptions have told her. Along the way they save a dam in California and hide with a circus troupe.
Eventually they get to New York and to a charity ball held in the huge mansion of the society leader Mrs. Sutton (Alma Kruger). Mrs. Sutton, it turns out, is also a spy. More complications are overcome, and Pat pursues Fry to the Statue of Liberty and the big climax.
Not what I would call suspense, but a fine set of pearl-like episodes strung together making a tremendous thrill ride of a movie. Everyone does a bang-up job, and audiences in 1942 must have been carried away by the audacity of the spies and the determination of Barry and Pat. I was. Then there’s also the somewhat subtle message of calm; you can be suspicious without denouncing people, because maybe the person you suspect is really telling the truth, so move deliberately.

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Lady Audley’s Secret (2000) – reviewed by George

Lady Audley’s secret – but which one? She has an out-of-wedlock child, she murders, perhaps accidentally, the child’s father, she sets fire to another character’s bedroom curtains and locks the bedroom door as she leaves, the bedroom being in an inn which burns to the ground, and on and on, living on lies and excuses.
But her basic secret is that she is a totally heartless monster, thinking only of herself and how events relate to her – a sociopath of the first water. And she is played by the beautiful Neve McIntosh, who turns in a nicely nuanced performance of a dissembler. And madness is a key topic within the story.
In 1868, Lucy, Lady Audley is married to the much older Sir Michael Audley (Kenneth Cranham), whose nephew Robert Audley (Steven Mackintosh) was a university chum of George Talboys (Jamie Bamber, Battlestar Galactica), the father of Lucy’s secret son. Robert is very attracted to Lucy, and fears that this constitutes disloyalty to his uncle. So when Sir Audley suggests that Robert marry his cousin Alicia (Juliette Caton), who is Michael’s daughter, Robert agrees.
Phoebe Marks (Melanie Clark Pullen), Lucy’s maid, has access to her jewelry and secret hiding places, where Phoebe finds a baby bootie. She and her husband Luke (Paul Swinnerton), who works with the carriages and horses, blackmail Lucy and get enough money to leave. Good on them, for if they stayed Lucy would surely kill them.
The story is rich in complications and somewhat hard to follow – I don’t know if I truly understood everything, for in the book (summary on Wikipedia) Lucy and George are married, so their child would not be illegitimate, as I thought.
The story has been filmed three times before, but this British TV movie is the first with sound. The three silent movies: 1912 (USA), 1915 (USA), and 1920 (UK).
From the novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Screenplay by Donald Hounam, Directed by Betsan Morris Evans.

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Peter O’Toole is the voice of Sherlock Holmes in “Valley of Fear” (1984) – reviewed by George

Once again the balance of sound elements is bad, but here it is the worst of this short series of four cartoons. The music actually came within a hair of drowning out the dialogue completely on several occasions.
Holmes receives a letter in code, a book code, only it’s been so long since this correspondent wrote that Holmes has forgotten which book the code is based on. Well, the first number given is over five hundred, so it has to be a big book, and a common one. It can’t be the Bible because there are so many editions. Eventually Holmes decides on a book and the message becomes clear. He and Watson leave for a country estate where the clues include a missing barbell, and the victim has no face.
This is inferior in every way to the Arthur Wontner version, which was called “The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes” (1935), review posted December 23, 2016. In that review I wrote that we would see another version of “Valley of Fear” in the 1980’s, and this cartoon is that version. Too bad it stinks; I hated it. And I don’t think the short length of the cartoon has anything to do with it; the cartoon is 0:48 and the Wontner feature is 30 minute longer at 1:18, but Wontner adds Moriarty as the mastermind behind the American gang, as well as most of the serious crime in England and Europe.
Voice of Dr. Watson by Earle Cross, Adaptation by Norma Green, Directed by Warwick Gilbert, Di Rudder, and Alex Nicholas.

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