All posts by junesboy

On the Road + 70 years

I think I first read Jack Kerouac’s road-trip opus about 1968. The wheels that inspired Kerouac’s chronicle had rolled a few years before I was born, but I was now in my teens and had been driving for about 20 months. It was not unusual to find me cruising the intoxicating two-lane rural asphalt through northern Fayette County for hours after my school day at Bryan Station. My folks had moved to Omaha, I was alone, gas cost about 33¢ a gallon, Dad had left me a 1959 sky-blue Cadillac he had restored to viability for the spring…and, of course, I was gonna live forever…and maybe…just maybe…I might catch a gander at that Golden Gate Bridge on the old Athens-Boonesboro Road.

20+ years later, I finally did make it to San Francisco, not on a spiritual journey by thumb, but on a business trip by plane and by rental car…not wine spodee-odee, but Napa cabernet…not crashing at someone’s pad, but snoozing at a Holiday Inn on the Wharf. I’m not complaining. It was fine enough. But my zooming and dreaming though the tree tunnels of the Bluegrass and Jack’s crooning about jazz-inspired freedom and the end-of-the-western-world light had promised more.

I had an afternoon free on that trip. I went moseying. I walked the worn wooden floors of Ferlinghetti’s book store. I smiled to see Wendell Berry so proudly displayed there. I saw an old poster for Job Rolling Papers. I smiled at that too. I’d always thought those graphics were cool without knowing anything about Alphonse Mucha at the time, and also without knowing anything about rolling my own. My own what? I was a 40-something hippy-type liquor and wine retailer who had never smoked tobacco much less anything more exotic (euphemism for illegal). That’s got to be a miniscule demographic.

I also saw a poster for the current exhibition at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. They were showing something called Bay Area Figurative Art 1950-1965.

Whoa.

I went.

For three hours I lost myself in the GI-Bill-fueled creative images of Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, Clyfford Still, and Paul Wonner – the same images in which Kerouac, Carl Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady would have swum after their highway hajj. I imagined myself into a 50’s garage/art studio, listening to Ginsberg chanting “Howl” while Kerouac passed the hat for wine. I know my comfort-loving geezer would not have lasted 20 minutes in that room, but once…once…I drove a ’59 big-finned sky-blue caddy on green-infused country roads…

Last week, Joe, Eric and Junesboy, three mature bohemians climbed into Joe’s car and headed towards the Speed Museum in Louisville to see their current exhibition of the works of Alphonse Mucha.

What goes around…

We were on the road, yass, yass, on the road.

We lunched first at the corner drug store. It was Weeny Wednesday. Thus we were nutritionally fortified with hot dogs and milk shakes for the journey. Joe drove, it being his car, Eric navigated, I kibitzed from the back seat, geezer-splaining the ins and outs of Kentucky legislative schemes with my deep, eight-year outdated wisdom. Could there be a more potent recipe for random bewildered tedium?

But the sun was shining. The horse farms were still faintly green in January. The company was fine. We were in no hurry. Hell, we’re retired!

It’s unwise for us to be hurried. None of us are the skilled (<< snort >>) drivers we once imagined ourselves to be; Joe’s reaction time is borderline glacial, Eric likes to look directly and immediately at whomever he’s speaking to (left, right, or upwards when Joe decides the lane markers are optional), and I read mystery novels at long red lights until the guy behind me honks. We are three creative types who should hire a limo.

Today, Joe extolled driving 100mph in Montana as a teen (as the trucks roared by us on I-64 today), Eric thrilled us with descriptions of his 30mph jaunts around Woodford County on his now-defunct Vespa (as two Harleys zipped by us on the right), and I offered a succinct assessment of the Reds’ chances in the upcoming baseball season; “I fear they’re gonna suck” (as a thoroughbred cantered past us with ease and grace).

Against all Las Vegas predictions, we reached our destination and it was a good day. It was my first visit to the Speed since its renovation. It’s a treasure. I wish it was in Lexington, but I’m glad it’s as close as Louisville.

The Mucha exhibit was mesmerizing. It had me reliving pre-internet University of Kentucky Guignol Theatre days spent pestering local businesses to put up our production posters to attract an audience. Of course we didn’t have Sarah Bernhardt as a selling point, but we did have Betty Waren urging us on.

A special treat was crossing paths with one of my dozen or so ex-stage-wives who I had not seen for thirty years. At that distant time she wished me safe travels to the Antarctic to freeze to death in Ted Nally’s fine play; “Terra Nova,” in the basement of Angel Levas’s fine restaurant in downtown Lexington. Angel actually participated in our production by NOT turning the heat on in the basement. The Shivering Verismo School of Theatre – who knew such a thing existed?

Despite that frigid parting decades past, it was a warm reunion last week.

We three drifted through the beautiful exhibit. I concocted stories behind the images, Joe envisioned staging the plays and operas, and Eric attracted his usual entourage of other museum attendees who wanted a docent to describe and explain. He is remarkably suited for this role: he is intelligent, verbal, charming, and just happens to be a nationally recognized painter himself…and he can juggle anything.

Eventually, our trio reassembled in the museum gift shop where I made my greatest contribution of the day by finding and purchasing a killer tee-shirt for Janie’s sleep-ware collection. Priorities, gentlemen!

Back to the car and back on the road.

Three bohemians.

Three aging beatniks.

No open windows.

No open bottles.

Just cruise control and conversation.

We wended our way home.

Wended…

Le mot juste.

We missed our exit and had to wend our way through much of Woodford County.

Who cares?

It was a sunny day.

The horses were sprinkled in their paddocks.

I briefly flashed back to those après school days…

…on the road.

El Vampiro Negro

It sounds like a horror flick made in Mexico in the early 60’s and reworked by K. Gordon Murray, inexplicably but plangently dubbed by radio announcers in Coral Bay, Florida, and released as a third feature lagniappe on a Santo-driven Saturday all-night Southern California neighborhood screen.

But it’s not……any of it.

Instead, it’s a gripping, non-supernatural 1953 reworking of Fritz Lang’s 1931 jewel “M” that’s actually scarier than the original.

Director Román Viñoly Barreto replaces Peter Lorre’s remarkable performance in the original with a gang of sterling actors from a larger portion of the planet’s population (women in the key roles – whatta concept!)

  • Olga Zubarry is earthy and anxious, vulnerable, but fierce, and she does what the police cannot.
  • Nathán Pinzón is pathetic and pitiless and readily tearful.
  • Nelly Panizza is energetic, hot in her lingerie, and fears neither the authorities nor repercussions…and near to whom it is not safe to be.
  • Roberto Escalarda is cool, cruel, perfectly groomed, and perfectly hypocritical. He also gets my laugh-out-loud line of the film as the prosecutor; “Round up the usual suspects.”

I believe film-makers watch films……duh.

It would not be a surprise to me to find out Barreto was impressed by Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932). There were moments during the stalking of the killer when I almost started chanting; “Gobbo-geebo, Gobbo-geebo, now we make you one of us.” And the final corralling of the villain in the sewers smelled much like the demise of Orson Welles in Carol Reed’s brilliant THE THIRD MAN (1949).

It also would not surprise me to learn that the West German 1960’s film interpreters of the Edgar Wallace canon had been exposed to this film. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that homeless blind match-seller before and I was expecting Klaus Kinski to jump out of the shadows at every turn.

I was also arrested by the long shots of shoes walking the rain-shiny nighttime cobblestone streets. A similar sequence opened Koreyoshi Kurahara’s excellent flick; I AM WAITING (1957).

Film-makers watch films.

Two other odd thoughts…

This film, according to the always thoughtful analysis of Eddie Muller, was part of a golden period of Argentine film-making in the early 50’s. That productive time was truncated by government turmoil and the strangling sunami of films from Hollywood. Argentine films continued to be shown and win awards in Europe, but few made it to the States. This economic imperialism was replicated in other parts of the film world. While I’m pleased that the US product was so well-done and well-received, I wonder if the price of losing variety and diversity was awfully high.

<< sigh >>

Something we’ll never know…

Also…

There’s a scene on a roller coaster; usually a happy choice for me.

I love roller coasters and wish to ride them all…but I didn’t care for this one. It was a coaster that only held two people in each gondola for each ride and only one gondola for each ride. The two riders were genuinely terrified, as I would be. It’s one thing to be hurled to destruction doing a foolish thing along with a crowd of brave fools. It’s quite another to be a solo fool.

Perhaps that explains lemmings.

Perhaps that explains political rallies.

I need to cipher on that a bit.

The film is quite fine. If you get a chance to see it…lucky you.

My Guerilla Theatre Career

“I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” – Bob Dylan.

“Come ON Roger! Dammit!

MOVE!

We’ve got to GO!”

These delicately emphasized instructions landed like thunder on 1970 Southern-Baptist-raised freshman ears that were still trying to accommodate Rhett Butler’s curtain line.

The assault continued; “Get in the car! Sit on Dixie’s lap! She’ll explain. Have you got your sign?”

The sheer number of questions generated thus far was daunting, but offered a promising seating arrangement for the adventure (though he would have preferred to be providing the lap), Rodge opted for eschewing quizzing the leader (upper-classman of the Theatre Department, Barker) of this expedition and pursuing Dixie’s expertise in the seeking of understanding the intentions of the enterprise and perhaps the eventual attentions of Dixie herself.

In the car for the next three blocks…

Dixie draped a shirt card with strings attached around my neck. It read; “Broad Form Deed.”

She elaborated; “That’s who you’re playing. We’re protesting against the Peabody Coal Company recruiting today on campus. Barker’s playing the Appalachian farm owner – you’ll see his sign –. When he asks you; ‘What do I get if I sign?’ you smile real big, maybe wiggle some jazz hands behind ears and say; ‘One hundred dollars!’”

“Wait. I’m playing an inanimate object?”

“Yes.”

“What’s a broad form deed, anyway?”

“A slimy legal thing.”

“What’s my motivation?”

“Don’t get arrested. If you see anyone in a uniform, lose the sign and disappear into the crowd…if there is one. Oh, and if Barker likes you and remembers, he may be the student director of next fall’s show. Could help in auditions. We’re here.”

“Here” was in front of Kennedy’s Book Store at the corner of Limestone and Avenue of Champions. We tumbled out and stumbled about in front of 10-12 mildly befuddled students. I shouted; “One hundred dollars!” We reloaded the car and proceeded to a restaurant named Alfalfa’s, three other campus sites, and a witness-less finale at the courthouse in downtown Lexington (several miles from campus and half a state from the Peabody Coal Company).

From there we dissipated.

I had long lost my sign.

I hoofed it back to my campus apartment.

I had a performance experience that never appeared on my resumé.

I never saw Dixie again.

My arrest record remained pristine.

A couple years later, John Prine’s Muhlenburg County. Resonated immediately with me.

All-in-all……I suppose I was made better by the afternoon. But…………Dixie was pretty cute.

Funeralville III

The Queen of England died recently.

Perhaps you heard.

She was an admirable lady of 96, an inspirational, if mostly symbolic ruler of an empire who could open a flower show or diagnose a faulty carburetor and fix that blighter.

She became Queen the year I finally achieved successfully sleeping quietly through the night, to my parents’ relief. Thus, she’s the only Queen of England I’ve known, though, frankly speaking, I’ve had no urgent need for a “Mum” at all. I had my Mom.

My Mom died last week.

I doubt you heard…and that’s as she probably wished it.

At the end of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, Willie Loman’s wife posits at Willie’s graveside; “Attention must be paid.” The first time I saw the play, I remember smirking silently at that line; “My Mom would beg to differ.”

In John Steinbeck’s CANNERY ROW, Flora points out; “Some people don’t want to put themselves forward.” That……that…………

I don’t know why.

She was an admirable lady of 94, a suddenly widowed (at 44) mother of three schoolgirls and a hippie actor/son. She fixed those blighters too.

I remember…

…We would sit in the kitchen around that yellow-topped table and listen to the UK basketball games on the radio (televised games had yet to be invented). Mom would have her pad and pencil. She would keep meticulous score. She would know precisely how many points Cotton Nash and Dan Issel, and Mike Pratt and Scotty Baesler had scored. It was important. School spirit was a fine thing, but hard facts ruled the day.

…The day she mildly explained to my Little League coach who had failed to put me in that day’s game, that he was sequestering a future Hall-of-Fame first-baseman on his bench to his team’s detriment. I started the next game, though I still await that Hall-of-Fame invite. That day I learned the power of advocacy and persuasion. Don’t confront…form a discussion group.

…Before I started first grade, we would hike every Tuesday five blocks to the bookmobile, check-out our maximum ten books and hike back. We would haunt bookstores and thrift shops with book piles. Before I could read, I would “read” these picture books and make up stories to fit the pictures. I had been promised by my Mom that when I started school they would teach me to read. I returned home angry from my first day of school because I still couldn’t read.

No.

My Mom didn’t have a parade of black Range Rovers through the streets of Edinburgh, or guns, or cannons, or horses, or military uniforms of centuries of history, or choirs…and that’s as she probably wished it.

I fear her memorial will be in the rider’s seat of my car when I’m driving alone. There’s always a book there, in case I get stuck at a slow drive-through, or a train crossing, or simply a longish red traffic light.

I think she would have wished that too.

What! A!! Show!!!

Tomorrow is the 34th anniversary of Janie and Roger gettin’ hitched for the first time.

Of course we’ve been married over a dozen times…to each other! Every time we are honored to attend our friends’ weddings, it becomes our wedding. During each ceremony, hands are held (shyly…can you believe it?), and vows are rediscovered with sideways glances (slyly…you can’t make this up).

34 instant years…

How shall we mark the occasion?

Well, many might think it’s a paltry plan. We have shared head colds (negative test) the last week and both of us are just a mite puny. We’ll probably stay in, order in, and reflect a bit on how fortunate we’ve been to find each other and how perspicacious we’ve been in knowing quickly that we had found each other.

After 30 years, retirement and the pandemic have driven us indoors, reduced our social interactions, and focused our attentions inward and toward each other. The connection was strong and is now even stronger. LeGuin and Kazantzakis would not be surprised.

But I always am.

Always.

Darlin’, after 34 years it feels like this is where we came in.

Can we stay and watch this show again?

I wanna be sure I don’t miss a thing.

Jim Rodgers’ Natal Day

Oh!

The places we’ve gone…

…the people we’ve been!

We’ve been to Pennsylvania (THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON, ERRATA), and Texas (THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS). We’ve been to Sweden (A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC), Spain (MAN OF LA MANCHA), and England (THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, SWEENEY TODD, and CAMELOT).

We’ve plumbed the depths of Oscar Wilde and Western Kentucky (FLOYD COLLINS).

All because you saw us there.

I’ve been a lawyer, a doctor, a murderer, a playwright, a sheriff, a barber…

…the King of England…

……a starkeeper……

Hell.

I was even a goose!

All because you said I could.

Once, we even got to sing together. That might have been the best.

Jim, you are a fine, fine traveling companion.

Thank you.

Frankenstein 1970

There are few verities in this world, but I know of some; death, taxes, and there’ll always be a Frankenstein film I haven’t seen.

This is one.

Tonight I remedied that omission.

Ugh.

Many think Boris Karloff played Frankenstein in the best known film of Mary Shelley’s amazing story. Not true. Mr. Karloff played the monster created by Baron Frankenstein. It was not until this 1958 film that he actually played someone in the Frankenstein family, a descendant of the baron, facing a future of dwindling funds, who rents out the stark Frankenstein manse to a documentary film crew that resembles the film crew in ED WOOD.

I usually enjoy Mr. Karloff’s performances, but in this case Messiers Clive and Cushing did it better.

Having consistently watched more than the recommended daily dose of mad scientist flicks, I’ve acquired a dubious expertise in movie laboratory sets. This film’s iteration features bank after bank of consoles of dials and switches and gauges…very like a low-budget version of Dr. No’s lab. It lacks one of those lightning producing orbs that are dear to my heart, but it does have some dripping tubing in various places that suggest that somewhere there’s some fine bourbon bein’ born. There’s also a contraption that looks like a cross between an MRI and a crematorium…and an EZ-Bake oven… smokin’ up the joint. All-in-all, I’d give the lab an 85. It was easy to dance to.

Oh. On the audio side of production, the lab has the capability of disposing of human bodies. When it’s employed, it does so with the distinct sound effect of a toilet being flushed. I can only imagine how that was received in 1950’s movie houses. I can only imagine the glee of the movie critics of the day.

On the positive side…

There’s a moment early in the film that shows us three members of the film crew framed in front of a large, gothic fireplace. It recalled to me the opening scene in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN with the Shelleys and mad, bad Lord Byron. It may have been accidental, but I prefer to think the director and writers were paying homage.

Eventually we arrive in a ludicrous confrontation between a mummyishly-bandaged monster and a beret-wearing cameraman in a cave with a perfectly flat Hollywood cave floor (are there any other kind?)

I simply wouldn’t have any other way.

My Favorite Bookstore 3: Rokuro-Kubi 1

I had only been working a week at the Bait Shop.

The Bait Shop was a book store with only a miniscule inventory of books about fishing.

It did boast several sizable aquaria with mesmerizing arrays of tropical fish; mostly cichlids and one tank of bosemani rainbows. I had already discerned that the cichlids were an opinionated bunch that moved their furniture constantly and spit gravel when disgusted…or about to give birth. The rainbows were sleepy and “just happy to breed here.”

Thus, the Books and Interesting Tidbits Shop was a touch tropical, certainly topical, but not your typical book store.

I had yet to master the chimerical shelving system for the books. My high school part-time job at the public library had taught me the essences of the Dewey Decimal System (DDS). The logic parceling out shelf space at the Bait Shop however, was totally uninfluenced by the DDS. For example: Francois Truffault’s HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAULT was deliberately placed next to James E. Vance’s GEOGRAPHY AND URBAN EVOLUTION IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA. When I groused to Sam Cooger, the banjo-playing partner/owner of the shop, he sneered; “Melvil Dewey was an anal nerd. Numbers on books – whatta load of crap. He probably never even saw the Frisco Bay and I know he never saw VERTIGO. We should be guided by such ignorance?” He leaned back in his corner and crooned “It’s so neat ta beat yer feet by the San Francisco Bay.”

Gifted by such guidance, I fumbled about on the road to dim-as-could-be until, one day, I had an epiphany. Of course Hugh Lofting’s DR. DOOLITTLE IN THE MOON belonged next to Guy Boothby’s DR. NIKOLA not only for the dubious medical pedigrees of the titular characters, but also for their similar portrayals of cats as alien and not completely sympathetic critters. I confidently slid a handsome first edition (in dust jacket no less) of Carl Van Vechten’s THE TIGER IN THE HOUSE to the right of those books to mollify any negative feline vibes. Benji Andante, the other store partner/owner peered at my decision and pondered… “A bit obvious, but shows progress. Balance has its place, but not everywhere. Sometimes a clear vector is useful, but let’s leave it that way for few days and see.”

I wasn’t sure I understood what Ben had said…actually…I was sure I didn’t understand. Still, I marked it down as a win. The day before, he had paraphrased Albee (or Stoppard – I can’t keep ‘em straight when he starts rattling) to encourage me; “A step is positive, any step, even a negative step, because it is a step.”

Now…where should I put George F. Worts’ THE HOUSE OF CREEPING HORROR?

Garrotes are involved. Perhaps in the Spanish language section of the shop, next to the screenplay of Santo Contra el Espectro de el Estrangulador?

Or next to A BLUEGRASS CONSPIRACY – murderous doings by elements striving to return a small town that once was a crossroads for illicit substances to those profitable, if less righteous days.

Or next to Manly Wade Wellman’s THIRD STRING CENTER book-for-boys, to demonstrate a useful, if often pummeled career path après high school football hero-dom.

Sam disrupted my cogitation; “Ya know, Cayton, yer not much help, but ya sure are slow.”

Ben; “He’s trying, Sam. Not particularly well, but… Put it next to the Wellman, maybe it’ll improve the prose.”

He continued; “I got a call from Mo Stern. He’s coming in this afternoon.”

Sam erupted; “Christ! I’m not up to that today.”

Ben gazed at me.

“Cayton, you’re a theatre major, yes?”

“I am. I’m rehearsing Synge’s Playboy of the Western World now.”

“Ah yes; ‘I’m thinkin’ it’s a queer daughter you are to be askin’ yer father to be crossin’ the Stooks of the Dead Women with a drop taken.’ – do you get to say that?”

“No. That’s someone else’s line.”

“Pity.”

Sam and Ben had a strange conceit about communicating privately with each other. They would slide up next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, but facing opposite directions. They would then murmur to each other in a tone that anyone nearby could clearly hear…but to them it served as a private conversation.

Sam; “Seriously, I don’t think I can do this today. Give the kid a try. God knows he ain’t worth his salt yet on anything else.”

Ben to me, after a moment of mindful breathing; “Here’s what we need for you to do this afternoon…

We have a customer. His name is Mo Stern.

Mister Stern loves books. Always has. A while back, he began to lose much of his sight. Forget what that meant to his life otherwise. He loves books. He has adapted admirably in his everyday living. We are part of his adapting…maybe the most important part. He loves books and now it is near impossible for him to read them.

We maintain a list of the books he wishes to “read.” When we get two exact copies, same editions, of books on his list, he buys them both, and…he comes into the shop, and…we read them out loud to him from one copy, while he follows along in another. Pages are turned simultaneously, chapters are finished simultaneously, until the book is complete. He then takes both copies in case he might want to “reread” the book someday.

He loves books. He has passion for reading.

I believe passion is an important ingredient for the theatre. I know you read well and, I assume, speak clearly. Else, no audience will seek you out for long.

Will you do this?”

(…to be continued…perhaps…)

Oligarchs vs the Dollar Dog

I stumbled across a genuinely interesting baseball game while channel-surfing.

It was a college game pitting top-ranked Texas against a UCLA team who lost ten players to the professional draft last year. This game was part of a weekend event; the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic played in the Houston Astros’ major league ballpark.

Normally, in early March, if I stumbled across a game on the tube, it would be a major league spring training game, featuring players of whom I’ve never heard, wearing numbers on their branded, recognizable major league uniforms in the 80-99 range…numbers you’ll never see in the regular season. The same could be said of the players themselves.

But tonight, I’m watching players of whom I’ve never heard, wearing uniforms of unusual colors and logos — colors and logos you’ll never see in the major leagues. The same could be said of most of the players themselves.

Normally, the teams I’m watching this time of year would be playing in the dry sunshine and sere landscapes of Arizona, or amongst the palms of muggy Florida, on green fields, the geometry of which have been pretty much set for over a hundred years.

Tonight, they’re playing in a major league ballpark, the geometry of which was set over a hundred years ago.

Tonight, I watched a tiny batter with a tiny strike zone receive an unsurprising base on balls, steal second base, steal third base on the next pitch, and score on the subsequent sacrifice fly. To see two stolen bases in today’s major league season, I might have to watch two dozen games. Instead I would most likely be watching six strikeouts and a home run every three innings.

Be still my beating heart.

Why am I watching an interesting (and non-exhibition – it really counts) college game being played passionately before a crowd of about 20,000 instead of a meaningless spring training major league game?

Well, it’s because the billionaire owners and the millionaire players of major league baseball have decided to not play their game…their GAME…a pastime…once upon a time, the national pastime.

It’s probably good that I’m not the czar of baseball.

If I were, I would cap it all.

It’s the national pastime. It’s a game.

There would still be $1,000 tickets, but there would be many more $10 tickets.

There could be champagne and caviar (non-Russian, thank you very much), but the hot dogs and beer would be a dollar.

The oligarchs of baseball, the owners and the players, could still compete for bigger shares of broadcast money, but they couldn’t double-dip on the fans in the stands.

If this radical stance drove current baseball players from the game…well, I just watched that same tiny baserunner score on a beautifully executed squeeze bunt. I’d pay ten bucks to see him do it in person.

If this radical stance drove current baseball owners from the game…well, as I was growing up, watching Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek call the Saturday Game of the Week, and listening to Waite Hoyt and Claude Sullivan call the Reds games on radio, my dreams of the perfect career were to be an astronaut until I was thirty, and then become the owner of a baseball team. I suspect I’m not alone in those aspirations.

It’s merely baseball, whether it’s played in Dodger Stadium, or Castlewood Park.

It’s sublimely baseball, whether it’s played in Dodger Stadium, or Castlewood Park.

It’s not baseball if it’s not played.

You Say Hund & I Say Hound

Movie night!

I guess it’s hubris…or karma…or just a mess of “what goes around…”

I’ve written before about my delight in the imaginary languages one finds in the movies. Tarzan’s “Kreegah!” and Michael Rennie’s “Klaatu narada dikto,” don’t terrify me, they thrill me.

Well…

…this has been my week to be challenged by unknown-to-me real languages in movies without the aid of either subtitles or English dubbing.

I used to be inordinately proud to be able to rattle off the first lines of José Marti’s Guantanamera, but to truly be “un hombre sincero,” I should confess that’s about the sum of my mastery of Spanish.

Yet I found myself caught in in the sluggish whirlwind of Jesus Franco’s lesser known masterpiece; Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. Sluggish, because any film featuring Howard Vernon as your action-driving monster has a lot of inertia to overcome as soon as the opening credits have run. Whirlwind, because you can always add an ineffectual fistfight with a non-titular werewolf at the end of the flick to liven things up a bit, and director Franco, consummate artist of the box office, knows this and complies.

Still, it might have been helpful to understand what few words were left in the script between the grunts, growls, and howls of the monstrous troika propelling this miscarriage.

And then there’s German?

Sigh.

I can mumble a few syllables of Stille Nacht at a noisy Christmas party and I can spin a few wine terms like “trockenbeerenauslese,” but other than that, I’m schnitzel.

But I have been eagerly anticipating viewing the 1937 German film; Der Hund von Baskerville since it arrived in my latest box of goodies from Sinister Cinema. Imagine my initial dismay when it sported no dubbing, no subtitles.

But ya know…it didn’t matter.

I am an amateur Sherlockian. I have read and watched Sherlock Holmes stories for almost 60 years. I have seen so many film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, so many times… The best film version was written by a friend of mine. Hell, Janie and I even vacationed in a small cabin on the only moors in the US.

I know this tale.

The actors could bark their lines as quickly as they pleased and I corrected them even more quickly. I knew intimately what Sherlock’s rooms, and Baskerville Hall should be like. I knew the paths and the mists and the perilous bogs. This was terra familiar.

I delighted seeing Mrs. Hudson fussing over Watson’s experiments with tobacco ash. I despaired watching a ridiculous “hound” that might have been the inspiration for The Killer Shrews. I needed no explanation for Sir Henry’s imperious pique over his missing shoe.

I don’t know the German for “cognoscenti,” but I know it was me.

And I loved it.

Ach!