Funeralville II

I watched parts of various stages of President Bush’s funeral.

I wept a bit for a man and a family I did not particularly admire.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

Maybe I was moved by the fact that he was my President. He was the President of my United States, duly and fairly elected by my US countrymen. He was not inserted in the White House by gangsters from another country. That’s a good reason, but not a particularly high standard.

Maybe I was moved by his family life and his faithful devotion to the singular partner of his life. That’s another good reason, but not a historically high standard.

Maybe I was moved by President Bush’s volunteering for military duty at the age of eighteen in defiance of his parents’ college plans for him, at a moment in history when the rightness of our country’s military activities seemed clear and the success of those activities were far from clear. It was no time for bone spurs.

Maybe I was moved by President Bush’s advocacy for the rights of, and his lack of mockery of the disabled. I mean, who would do that?

Maybe it was simply the passing of a man more competent, more dutiful, more loyal, and perhaps kinder than I will ever be…
…but then…
I’m not President.

<< snort! >>

Can you imagine?

Electing someone President who’s not more competent, more dutiful, more loyal, and kinder than you are yourself? What would be the point of that?

That would be enough to make you cry…
…or resist.

Mr. Moto’s Last Warning

Movie night!

The year; 1939.

The challenge; can you take a cast consisting of Peter Lorre, George Sanders, Ricardo Cortez, John Carradine, and Robert E. Lee’s cousin (Virginia Field) and prevent World War II?

Well yes you can……at least for a year or two.

It’s exotic, it’s silly, it’s Mr. Moto’s Last Warning.

Points of interest for this Z-movie freak;

  • Virginia Field made a mini career of working with Asian detectives played by non-Asian actors. She appeared in three Mr. Moto flicks and a Charlie Chan.
  • Ricardo Cortez is always a charming villain; always. As an actor…Ricardo Cortez is always a charming villain.
  • In this epic, Mr. Cortez pumps air to an underwater diver with one hand while watching the French fleet though binoculars with the other and all the while his double-Windsor-knotted cravat and his Panama are never compromised. What style!
  • But that’s lollygaggin’ compared Mr. Moto, our persistently bespectacled hero. Mr. Moto dives underwater (in his eyeglasses), KO’s George Sanders underwater (still in his eyeglasses), blows up the enemy land mines underwater (yes, still in his eyeglasses), climbs out of the water onto the dock (you guessed it, still…), beats up Ricardo Cortez, disarrays his Panama and double-Windsor, and flings him into the Mediterranean (IN HIS EYEGLASSES!) It’s an astounding spectacle (see what I did there?).

I loved it.

They Can’t Have Gotten Far!

A movie night musing.

I hear it said there are no absolutes.

Maybe that’s why I love movies so. In the flicks there are immutable truths. A couple came immediately to mind as I reveled in The Legend of Spider Forest. I’m sure you’ve seen this treasure of a film countless times and cherish it as I do.

I josh.

Roger’s Immutable Film Truth (RIFT) #1 – Within five seconds after the words; “Get them!” have been uttered, a chase/fight/melee will ensue.

RIFT #2 – Be assured that as soon as you hear the statement; “They can’t have gotten far.” – they have.

It’s good to have these moral landmarks to guide us.

RIFT #2 is particularly important to understand these days. Mastering this concept makes our current president decipherable. It’s the primary law of the alternate dimension in which he lives.

He says “Hoax.” It’s not.

He says “We’ve turned the corner.” We haven’t.

He says “It will disappear.” I still see it.

He says “Hydroxy-snake-oil will cure it.” Nope.

He says voting by mail is bad and fraudulent as he posts his vote.

He says Biden probably plays more golf than he does…

He says he pays millions in federal tax…

He says he’s rich…

You get the idea? He points the way to truth by pointing unerringly in the opposite direction. Once we learn the language, he is the most transparent politician in history. Clearly, he’s living by the rules of terrible old movies like The Legend of Spider Forest.

It’s an odd political concept.

2020…….spider forest……it’s plausible.

Democracy, fairness, grace, civility – disappearing?

That’s OK.

They can’t have gotten far.

Oh, by the way, I voted today.

Gold

Movie Night!

I have never heard of tonight’s treasure, Gold, but the Oracle of Medford, Greg Luce, spoke glowingly of it.

Gold is a 1934 sci-fi film from Germany. It’s just fine.

It features;

  • The lovely Brigitte Helm of Metropolis fame.
  • Great, massive, electronic laboratory equipment that beeps and buzzes and flashes and flickers in quite intimidating fashion.
  • Not one, but two, count ‘em, two mighty and plausible laboratory explosions.

But most charming of all is the intense struggle between our protagonist, played by Hans Albers who looks a bit like the Amazing Kreskin (Plan 9 From Outer Space and Orgy of the Dead) and our antagonist played by Michael Bohnen who looks like Mr. Whipple in the old Charmin Tissue commercials. (“PLEASE don’t squeeze the Charmin!)

I found myself pondering whether the film might have sold more tickets in its United States release (assuming there was one) if it had been billed as Mister Whipple Vs. the Amazing Kreskin. I suppose not…1934 movie-goers hadn’t yet heard of the pair. Besides, that title wouldn’t have fit on the posters as well as; Gold.

I liked it.

The Gargoyle Vote

A hall-of fame bluegrass autumn evening prompts me to open the library windows and allow its pleasant invasion. The temperature is perfect, the humidity is low (rare for Kentucky). The sounds of the evening stream in to complete this urban hermit’s bliss.

What a change from the harsh invasion of last night.

The sounds of last evening screamed in to annihilate any bliss.

A red, shiny, snarling, sneering, pouting visage filled the TV screen. It was a face I’d seen before on the gargoyles of French buildings; looming and leering, hungry and angry, auguring vengeance on any lack of subservience, real or perceived.

It was a face I’d seen before in the Marvel comic books I collected in the 70’s. It was the screaming face of Peter Parker’s boss, J. Jonah Jameson. It was the leering face of the Green Gargoyle. It was the rampaging, obese face of the Incredible Hulk (“Don’t make me mad”). It was a cartoon face. It was not human.

I knew that then.

I know it now.

There’ll be no voting for gargoyles at our house.

This evening’s sounds are mostly gentle and reassuring.

The soft plash of the frogs, the muffled rumble of a squirrel on the roof, the martial rhythm of the cicadas, Little George and his dad recreating Tyler Herro’s finest moments on their hoop in the yard behind us, and the UK Marching Band practicing for this Saturday’s first home football game of the season.

I start thinking about football. It’s kinder than roaring gargoyles…barely.

I like to watch some college football and I usually get caught up in some of the pro football playoffs.

But it appears to me that the game has become purely a game of physical attrition. Whose third-string quarterback can beat whose fourth-string left tackle? Which team has the most pass receivers unencumbered by crutches? Which team has the fewest players undergoing the concussion protocol?

Why would any parents allow their children to participate in such an exercise?

For my occasional entertainment?

Why would anyone allow their children to become a gargoyle on TV?

For my occasional entertainment?

Gulp!

Folks, please, don’t bother for me.

I can always find a good or dreadful movie to watch.

The Well-Dressed Bulldog

Movie Night!

Monocles, tuxedos, feathered boas (are there any other kinds?), three-piece tweeds, hats & scarves (on the guys!), pencil-thin mustaches (on the guys), pin curls (NOT on the guys), thirty-foot-high interior doors, whiskey ‘n’ soda’s, evil doctors, femme fatales, tie bars (open bars, hotel bars, and prison bars, for that matter), private libraries with gothic doorways and fireplaces you could walk into upright, pubs as big as the General’s dining room at the end of White Christmas

What style! What total foolishness!!

The action is implausible and non-stop.

The plot is implausible and non-decipherable.

The repartee is brittle, the accents are vaguely British, and all the upper lips are stiff.

It’s the 1929 version of Bulldog Drummond with Ronald Colman and Joan Bennett.

I’m loving it!

Four Ways Out

Movie night!

So many odd delights on tonight’s bill.

First up; a preview of Eegah!

Yes, the legendary Eegah! – one of the 50 worst films of all time.

I’m sure we all share warm and fuzzy feelings of Richard Kiel’s poignant and teeth-flashing portrayal of “Jaws” in several James Bond films. It’s always been intriguing to me that while he played Jaws the character, he wasn’t the title character in Jaws the movie. Well, he had already accomplished that feat years earlier in Eegah!. Mr. Kiel was perfectly cast as Eegah, the last of the Incan cave men (who knew the Incans even had cave men?), which admittedly, is not as noble an accomplishment as the being the last of the Mohicans.

There is even some doubt in the film as to who IS the most credible cave man.

Arch Hall, Jr. makes his teen idol ala Ricky Nelson debut in this film. He actually rivals Richard Kiel in coarseness. Our buxom damsel in distress, Marilyn Manning, has a tough choice.

If I were her, I’d punt.

Dune buggies, sappy and soulful songs on a guitar (where’s John Belushi when ya need ‘im), cacti, and a low budget swimming party, struggle to replace surf boards, Annette and Frankie, and the Pacific Ocean…and sappy and soulful songs on a guitar.

I almost found myself rooting for Eegah.

This cinematic lagniappe is followed by Four Ways Out, an Italian film from 1951.

By the way, this double-feature beats my previous champion for weird movie combos. I believe Charles Edward Pogue was with me one afternoon at the Opera House (back when it was a dollar-matinee second-run movie house) for a double-feature of the Barbra Streisand musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever with the historical battle-flick Waterloo. That was a jolt to the senses but this exceeds that experience.

Four Ways Out features a script co-written by Federico Fellini. The man is a god to me, but remember; this is 1951. Amarcord was still 20+ years in the future.

This is a criminous tale of the heist of a big soccer game’s receipts and the ultimate destruction of the four thieves that pull it off.

The film has several interesting things to recommend it; a thief named Guido (you can’t go wrong with a thief named Guido), a crude devouring of pasta (you can’t go wrong…), and a scene wading in a fountain (always a winner in Italian film, though frankly, Anita Ekberg did it so much better).

That’s all nice. But the reason to watch the film is much simpler; beautiful Italian women acting their hearts out. A very young Gina Lollabrigida smolders as she dials up the police to obliterate her boyfriend and a zaftig Cosetta Greco (I don’t know who she is – nor do I know the Italian for “zaftig”) giving a performance like a cross between Lauren Bacall in Key Largo and Joy Page in Casablanca.

You can probably guess…I liked it.

Baseball 2020

Tonight’s home plate umpire has an entertaining and malleable strike zone, but the beloved (and bemused) Reds are currently ahead. I’ve seen a good bit of 2020’s baseball-in-the-time-of-the-cholera.

Some thoughts occur;

  • I like the rule change starting each extra inning with a man on second base. It maintains the clock-free bliss that is baseball while intensifying the action in the extra innings of a game that has stretched over the years. The strategy of waiting around for a home run isn’t so sound under these new conditions. With a runner on second and nobody out; singles, doubles, and (God forbid) sacrifices are back in play. You might still be sittin’ and watchin’ a tie game for the rest of your life, but you’ll be seein’ some action.
  • Ditto for the rule change requiring a relief pitcher to pitch to at least three batters or to the end of an inning. It adds a dollop of strategy to the game and it eliminates seeing four pitchers warm up in one half-inning.
  • The jury’s still out for me on the designated hitter, but I’m not as opposed I was. Tonight, it’s a lot more entertaining to see catcher Curt Casali batting in the ninth slot than wailing at Luis Castillo’s inept whaling.
  • The crowd sounds being pumped into the empty stadiums need to go away. It’s a hoax. It sounds like a hoax. It makes me wonder if the game is really real. It makes me wonder if we really did land on the moon.
  • The two-dimensional fans in the stands are odd, but at least they’re not all looking at their phones.
  • I like Sam LeCure’s increased participation with the broadcast team. He is more relaxed this year and has an interesting wit and perspective. I’m also happy to see more of Lexington-born Jeff Piecoro…but then, I’m an unabashed homer.
  • The Reds are flat-out disappointing. The highest batting average in tonight’s starting nine belongs to Nick Castellanos. He’s batting .237…pitiful. New additions to the team have not delivered. Moustakis has neither impressed at the plate, nor in the field, and has been often injured. Shogo Akiyama is just now fighting his way through a tough transition to US baseball. Matt Davidson has been released from the team. Pedro Strop, and now Wade Miley – injured. And then there’s Nick Senzel, clearly our answer in center field for the foreseeable future, injured and now injured again. This team should have been in the playoffs this year. It looks highly unlikely now.
  • On the happy side, the pitching has been strong and deep, and all should be Reds next year. A corps of young potential stars are interesting to watch. José Garcia, Tyler Stephenson, Aristide Aquino, and Nick Senzel all should be Reds next year.

I do dearly love the game, though it has and will change. So must I.

But the strike zone…that should be immutable. Someone tell tonight’s umpire.

May your launch angle be correct, your exit velo be 110+, and your spin rate be dazzling.

And this one belongs to the Reds! (Despite the shimmering strike zone)

Quisling

A geezer moment.

Remember, on TV, usually in the evening, during the non-prime-time that local stations would set aside for PSA’s (public service announcements, run for free to prove why the station is worthy of their precious license to broadcast), an earnest, usually unfamiliar face would appear on the screen and say; “Hi, I’m (name of unfamiliar face), and today’s WORD FROM UNITY is…” They would state a word and proceed to expound inspirationally on that word. It was an effort to make the viewer think and be better.

I don’t think it was particularly effective.

I don’t remember it continuing for too long.

Why?

Well…the words weren’t really that interesting, truth be told. Of course, at that time, how interesting could they be? There was no internet, no Google. If the word was at all outré, you’d have to go to the library to look it up!

Well, that was then. This is now.

 

Hi, I’m Roger Leasor, and today’s WORD FROM UNITY (whatever UNITY is) is; quisling.

 

Quisling.

Look it up.

Read a bit about the man himself. You already know him and his regime pretty well.

I think the word could be useful in the next few months and, perhaps, years.

A Mindful Day

It has been a mindful day.

Chores were done.

Some weeds have been pulled, and admired for their tenacity. The tiny backyard lagoon has been cleaned and listened to. The vacuuming and dish-washing has been finished and meditated over. Janie cooked and I devoured it with glee.

It rained usefully. The gutters generally performed well, though one downspout commands attention.

Governor Andy reported and twelve Kentuckians lost to covid-19 are mourned. Our green light is shining.

Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

Now I sit in the library with dusty books and bright, insistent screens. The windows are open to the petrichor and the evening sounds.

One of those bright screens is showing the Democratic Party’s Convention.

The roll call’s a snooze, though Kentucky’s Colman Eldridge was quite moving. Presidents Clinton and Carter are ill-served by this virtual format.

But the keynote speech…

…ah, yes-s-s-s-s.

It was parade of young Democratic leaders; a rainbow of races and genders, and a symphony of accents. It sparked a covid-tamped curiosity back to life. This show of diversity reminded me of a hippie innocence that once believed all could be made right and fair and equal for all.

These young people could convince me again.

Pretty exciting stuff…

The Crimes of the Black Cat

Movie night!

The Crimes of the Black Cat sounds like it should have been directed by Roger Corman and should have starred Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. Wrong! Thank you for playing.

This gem’s a nasty little giallo from 1972 featuring the always-pleasant-to-look-at Silva Koscina. You could have loved her in Hercules (1958), Lisa and the Devil (1973), and The House of Exorcism (1975)…but probably didn’t. You might have loved her in Uncle Was a Vampire (1959), but if you did, therapy should be seriously considered – I have some names. It also features the always wooden Anthony Steffen. I doubt if you loved him in Django the Bastard (1969) or The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) but I couldn’t resist the name-dropping opportunity – and what names. Mr. Steffen also held his own with acting giant Lee Majors in Killer Fish (1979).

The director of the film, Sergio Pastore, has few credits, but four years before making tonight’s film, he directed; Chrysanthemums for a Bunch of Swine.

What kind of mind…

Can you picture that on a marquee?

In the 60’s and 70’s, my generation was “…working on our night moves…” (Bob Seger), and trying to find “…paradise by the dashboard lights…” (Jim Steinman/Meat Loaf), at the drive-in theater. The screen entertained and encouraged our fumbling explorations with dancing hot dogs, buttercup popcorn, and Hammer Studio’s latest vampire/Frankenstein/mummy flicks, all with pristine sets, light from everywhere, and buxom babes in peril wearing lots of clothes with puffy sleeves. These were horror movies, but every victim died clean and the blood spilled was bright Christmas red. These were horror movies, but the monsters, be they covered by fur, bandages, or cape, felt as if they’d had a shower reasonably recently. Said monsters might assault a woman, but generally, the camera cut away from the actual deed, and clothes though disheveled and ripped, remained strategically intact even when sinking in quicksand.

Damn.

I admit profound ignorance about the existence of drive-in theaters in Europe during this time. But I discovered the “drive-in” films they were then making in Europe were clearly different…and I have been drawn to watch them like a car crash ever since.

They are sexy; occasionally fleetingly and implied, but often prolonged and explicit, and there are no warning labels.

They are violent; occasionally fleetingly and implied, but often prolonged and explicit, and there are no warning labels. Organs and limbs could, at any moment, become free to roam willy-nilly.

They are dark. Light with no discernible source is non-existent. In many scenes, light is non-existent.

The sets, in many cases are real…and often older than our country…and do not feel as if they’d had a shower this century.

These films are foreign…foreign in language, and sensibility, and foreign to my personal history and experience.

That does not make them wrong.

It makes them interesting.

It does not make them good.

Just interesting.

That’s good enough for me.

Tonight’s film, The Crimes of the Black Cat is far from original. If you saw Blood and Black Lace (1964), which, frankly, would stun me, you know this story. The Crimes of the Black Cat is clearly and simply a second artistic take on a story that clearly and simply didn’t need a first take.

It does feature some novel weapons of murder; a yellow Volkswagen, a cat with poisoned claws, and a hole in the ground. It does surpass my friend Eric Johnson’s bar (not known for its height) for filmic pulchritude. It fails utterly in my friend Joe Gatton’s Creative Backlighting Standard.

Otherwise, I’ve seen it. I loved it. You can skip it. You’re welcome.