Dim Setsuled

From the Depths of a Glitzy Hell



Did you know there's a movie where Sammy Davis Jr. plays a demon working for Christopher Lee as Satan to help Jack Klugman get revenge on Adam West? 1973's Poor Devil is a TV movie, in fact a backdoor pilot for a show that never happened, filled with awkward, corny jokes. But with such a cast it can hardly be a full miss and it starts to gain a real pulse when the relationship between Sammy Davis Jr. and Jack Klugman has time to develop.

The film opens in Hell where Sammy (Sammy Davis Jr.) works shovelling coal, hoping one day for a sweet promotion as a reward for shepherding another soul into Satan's (Christopher Lee) arms. Although it's great watching Davis Jr. and Lee perform together, the scenes in Hell are generally the weakest part of the film. One wishes the writers had just a slightly stronger grasp of the theology when Satan reminisces on how he first tried to tempt Adam with various other fruits before finally succeeding with the apple. As though God had forbidden Adam to eat any fruit of any kind.



But Sammy finds a kindred spirit in a mortal man named Bernie (Klugman), who's also bitter about not getting a promotion at the department store where he works. His boss is played by Adam West as such an over-the-top sleeze that he's one of the film's high points all by himself.



Bernie finally sells his soul to Sammy but the contract is void if Sammy can't fulfil Bernie's wishes. Bernie decides he wants his store to be looted of its entire inventory to ruin his boss. After putting together an extremely weird and nonsensical plot involving helicopters and Blackbeard the pirate, Sammy rounds up all the local burglars and has it done--only for Bernie to have a change of heart when he realises looting the store will endanger the livelihoods of the store's employees. A valuable lesson, that.

The chemistry between Sammy and Bernie fights its way through the cheesy dialogue to be genuinely sweet, almost a George Bailey and Clarence relationship.



Poor Devil is available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1360

A secret politician teaches space.
Constructed lunch reflects the growing box.
A knowing grid creates the open face.
The legs dissolved in weirdly fattened socks.
A pointed flower's cash for lizard men.
To stop the water, earth absorbed the rain.
A swirling light became a glowing win.
The wings were curled beneath the feathered vein.
The scrambled cards attract the swiftest hand.
The drowning clock extends a rusty spring.
A beach deserts its ev'ry grain of sand.
Machines were judged on apps for going "ping".
The agents changed the story's sun to moon.
Entire worlds reside upon the spoon.
Then Again

Liars, Nukes, and Money



It's time for Crichton to put his boots right on the Scarran dinner table as Farscape adds a new wrinkle to its cold war plot. Now Crichton wants to get paid. Or so he says.



Season Four, Episode Twenty: We're So Screwed, Part II: Hot to Katratzi

Why not "We're So Frelled"? It could be my imagination but it seems like there's less of the alien slang at this point in the series, which is a bit disappointing. A more noticeable disappointment is Aeryn (Claudia Black) being completely recovered from her incarceration and torture.



The little waltz she and Crichton (Ben Browder) have on an elevator is sweet but I kept thinking--this woman just had four giant spikes in her pregnant belly. Surely that should have some kind of lingering impact, if not physical at least psychological. Okay, you could say Aeryn just happens to be really strong. But one of the great things about the show is how the lasting effects of severe trauma manifest in Crichton's personality. Why pass up a similar opportunity for storytelling with Aeryn? Remember how great Claudia Black was in "Choices" in season three, when Aeryn was dealing with the trauma of losing the other Crichton?



Sure, "Hot to Katratzi" is fun. It is fun watching Crichton play chicken with a nuclear bomb. The Scarran puppetry and makeup effects are fantastic, too. And I do like the return of Stark (Paul Goddard), torturing Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), and I found Scorpius being a frustrating masochist about it even more amusing. But mostly these episodes feel like just an echo of the great "Liars, Guns, and Money" three parter.



. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on
Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties


Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think
Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton
Episode 14: Beware of Dog
Episode 15: Won't Get Fooled Again
Episode 16: The Locket
Episode 17: The Ugly Truth
Episode 18: A Clockwork Nebari
Episode 19: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part I: A Not So Simple Plan
Episode 20: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part II: With Friends Like These . . .
Episode 21: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part III: Plan B
Episode 22: Die Me, Dichotomy


Season Three:

Episode 1: Season of Death
Episode 2: Suns and Lovers
Episode 3: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part I: Would'a, Could'a, Should'a
Episode 4: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part II: Wait for the Wheel
Episode 5: . . . Different Destinations
Episode 6: Eat Me
Episode 7: Thanks for Sharing
Episode 8: Green Eyed Monster
Episode 9: Losing Time
Episode 10: Relativity
Episode 11: Incubator
Episode 12: Meltdown
Episode 13: Scratch 'n Sniff
Episode 14: Infinite Possibilities, Part I: Daedalus Demands
Episode 15: Infinite Possibilities, Part II: Icarus Abides
Episode 16: Revenging Angel
Episode 17: The Choice
Episode 18: Fractures
Episode 19: I-Yensch, You-Yensch
Episode 20: Into the Lion's Den, Part I: Lambs to the Slaughter
Episode 21: Into the Lion's Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Episode 22: A Dog with Two Bones


Season Four

Episode 1: Crichton Kicks
Episode 2: What was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice
Episode 3: What was Lost, Part II: Resurrection
Episode 4: Lava's a Many Splendoured Thing
Episode 5: Promises
Episode 6: Natural Election
Episode 7: John Quixote
Episode 8: I Shrink Therefore I Am
Episode 9: A Prefect Murder
Episode 10: Coup by Clam
Episode 11: Unrealised Reality
Episode 12: Kansas
Episode 13: Terra Firma
Episode 14: Twice Shy
Episode 15: Mental as Anything
Episode 16: Bringing Home the Beacon
Episode 17: A Constellation of Doubt
Episode 18: Prayer
Episode 19: We're So Screwed: Fetal Attraction
Kyoami Looks Up

The Wrong Way

</a>

Lately I've found myself watching interviews and lectures by the late Roger Scruton available on YouTube. As I've started seeing reports of the widespread riots in the U.S., I've been constantly reminded of a story Scruton told multiple times about the moment he became a conservative, when witnessing the riots in Paris, instigated by Communists and Socialists, in 1968.

"The thing that most struck me about those students in the street was the sentimentality of their anger. It was all about themselves. It wasn't about anything objective. Here they were the spoiled middle class baby boomers who never had any real difficulty to cope with, shouting their heads off in the streets, burning the cars belonging to ordinary proletarians whom those [students] pretended to be defending against some imaginary repressive structures erected by the bourgeoisie--the whole thing was a complete fiction based on the antiquated ideas of Karl Marx, ideas which were already redundant in the mid-19th century. They were acting out a self scripted drama in which the central character was themselves."

I've had a similar growing feeling since the election of Donald Trump. I didn't vote for Trump, I thought he was incompetent, and I plan on voting for Joe Biden. But almost immediately after Trump's election, reactions against him have felt oddly disconnected. As though Trump was the figurehead of an enemy in a war that had absolutely no substance for me. Which would be bad enough if I liked Trump but seems even worse because I don't like him. The oddly mechanical feeling of new young voices suddenly injected in news media, the stark bifurcation of reality between news media of different political stripes, the persistent recasting of heterosexual male libido as perverse. When I became concerned about lockdowns harming the economy, I immediately felt concern for my former coworkers at JCPenney who found themselves furloughed, sent home without pay. I can understand the belief that quarantining is more important than the economy but rhetoric from the left typically hadn't even a shred of sympathy for that proletariat the left is classically supposed to advocate.

And now, somehow, we're to believe that the horrific, the absolutely despicable murder of George Floyd calls for businesses across the country to be destroyed and looted, for Nashville's City Hall to be burned.

Again and again, I'm glad to be in Japan partly because there are so many things here I used to love about the U.S. Early on, I walked down a street with a coworker and I pointed out to her all the small business along the street we were walking down. There are so many little restaurants here, each distinctive with its own personality. I remember when San Diego was like that, before one by one nearly every place with any shred of individual personality was strangled to death by oppressive rents. And now this. I don't know what else to say because I know the kind of Fred Madison madness I'm talking to can't see or hear the other side. There are no eyes to see or ears to hear any appeal I can make. All I can do is hope.

Axe

The Right Square for Circular Eyes



Last week, The Simpsons on Disney+ finally became worth watching. The first seasons, the good ones, were finally made available in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, as they obviously should have been in the first place. It's not on the level of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's infamous "remaster" (Amazon Prime, thankfully, only streams the series in SD) but enough of the screen was cropped out to make it a worthless inclusion on the service. But now all's well that ends well so I picked up where I left off in my last rewatch I began four or five years ago, near the end of season three, with the episode "Bart's Friend Falls in Love".



Now this is an improvement from watching someone's ripped VHS copy, that's for sure.

Said friend of Bart (Nancy Cartwright) is of course Milhouse (Pamela Hayden) who falls for a new girl with braces after viewing a sex ed tape starring a young, 1970s era Troy McClure (Phil Hartman).



Already there's more in this episode than Disney could hope to clean up with a cgi furry butt, right from the beginning with a classic Raiders of the Lost Ark parody featuring Homer (Dan Castellaneta) in his underwear, his unintelligible screams meant to mimic the speech of the Hovitos.



Yes, it's too bad. Perhaps we could warn Disney. If only they spoke Hovitos.

The best part of the episode is actually a subplot in which Homer expands his vocabulary via a subliminal messages tape delivered to him instead of one for weight loss. The next day he starts talking about his "gastronomic rapacity".



The funniest part, though, is when he stops using the tape and forgets "spoon".

"Where's that . . . metal dealie. You know to dig. Food."



Milhouse's girlfriend is voiced by Kimmy Robertson, best known as Lucy from Twin Peaks. It took me a minute to realise it. At first I just thought, "Where have I heard that voice before? Like, in something I've watched so many millions of times in the past thirty years it's etched on my subconscious?" Though as Homer said when Lisa (Yeardley Smith) first brings up the power of subliminal conditioning, "that's a load of rich creamery butter."

Robertson is pretty good as a cartoon child character--she has that kind of voice that doesn't sound like a real child but like a sharper, funnier version. She could have a good career as a voice actress in such roles.

Twitter Sonnet #1359

A folded leg suggests the standing bug.
A sea of hats forestalled the rising mob.
The answer given now's a timely hug.
The thread to shirts was like the corn to cob.
The cloud of cotton's dyed with purple blood.
Impending rubble speaks of building death.
Some muscle sprouts escape the cakey mud.
The sign of air's implied with ev'ry breath.
A kind of answer turned in laundry swoop.
Consensus clicked throughout the squirrel's tree.
Retreating thinkers claim the chicken coop.
Potential hives evade the single bee.
The colour picture snapped a grey response.
The angle clicked like famous housely haunts.
Musician Who

Taking the TARDIS from Water to Lava



Last week, I posted the first part of my own Doctor Who fan fiction. So to-day I bring you the second, here you go:

DOCTOR WHO

"The New Model Tomb"

by Setsuled

Part II

A woman with torn and matted blonde hair pointed her pistol at the Doctor and demanded, “Well, where is it?! Ten thousand toktols now or you're dead!”

“Ten thousand toktols?” the Doctor blinked in surprise. “I haven't got ten thousand toktols. I don't even have one toktol. Have you any toktols, Rob?”

“Eh, what?” The air was chilly, like an early autumn evening in Plymouth, but he was sweating. His hand was on his sword but he didn't dare draw it. “Toktols—is that currency, then? I have a shilling and threepence.”

The woman with the gun snorted.

“This is probably all part of a slumber party for the E-Yuns,” bellowed a tall man with a large belly. “This may not be serious for you but when we Wuntas ask to be paid for services we expect to be paid.”

“Well, I'm afraid I don't usually carry money,” said the Doctor. “What services do you mean?”

A thin, red-headed young man of about twenty four or twenty five was looking at them with a more appraising eye than the others. “You know, I don't think this is the E-Yun you made the deal with, Brenda.”

“Yes, thank you,” said the Doctor. “We are simply travellers.”

“Travellers?!” Brenda scoffed, clearly unpersuaded, “Here?!”

“Want a tour of broken pipes and leaky roofs?” asked a thin, dark haired man coming down the metal stairwell of a nearby building.

“This place does look like it's seen better days,” said the Doctor, looking about. A third of the buildings on the narrow street looked as though they'd been in a terrible fire years ago and were never repaired. They were all tall buildings, each at least seven storeys and Rob marvelled that they could be so thin and sheer and not topple over. He wondered what could leave the gigantic black marks, visible beneath what must have been months or years of accumulated dust.

“Look,” the Doctor continued, “I haven't got any toktols but I am a doctor. Perhaps there's something I can do for you and in exchange perhaps you can tell me a bit about this place?”

“Doctor, eh?” said the tall man.

“Diana and the four girls from Henchal's could do with a doctor,” the red-headed man remarked in a low, cautious tone to the tall man.

“You think so, Billy?” said the tall man, peevishly amused. “And what would you know about doctors?” He turned to the Doctor. “You know what we did to the last doctor we saw down here?”

Rob half-expected some witty rejoinder from his new friend but he looked at her now to see a grave expression on her face. She said nothing, keeping her hands in the pockets of her velvet coat.

“My name's Rob Fenner,” he said suddenly. “I'm a seaman, I grew up in Plymouth, England, if that means anything to you. I haven't known the Doctor a long time but if she says she wants to help, I can testify, her word is good.”

“England?!” said the thin man. “They really are having a slumber party.”

“There's no harm in letting me at least look at this Diana and the four girls, is there?” the Doctor said, ignoring this last exchange.

“I have a better idea,” said Billy, the redhead. “What kind of ransom do you think these two would fetch, Tom?”

Suddenly, a great, swirling wind arose about them. Dust whirled about—Rob covered his face with his arm and through the sudden haze he could just make out the Doctor burying her face in her coat. White light like sunbeams appeared as glowing shafts in the dust. The Doctor grabbed Rob's sleeve and pulled him back to the edge of the road as a dark shape, the size of a sloop, descended and came to rest on the street with a hiss.

“Keep your hands in the air,” a woman's voice boomed from the object, impossibly loud. “I'm looking for Brenda Vitti.”

The people on the street all took cover or moved to the side of the street. The big man with the gut, Tom, looked at the thing with calm disgust. Brenda fidgeted in the doorway of a building behind him. No-one said anything. No-one raised their hands.

There was another hiss from the thing and a curved hatch opened up on one side. A plump, brown skinned young woman stepped out. She was pretty and about Rob's own age. She wore a simple one piece garment with numerous external pockets, each with a little flap. Over this was a peculiar suit of armour, more like a skeleton of armour than proper armour, a grid mesh involved with disjointed black webbing.

“I'm not here to hurt anyone,” she said, hers being the voice of the machine but now it was of a normal human volume. “I'm only here to speak with Brenda Vitti and I'm prepared to pay.”

“That's more like it,” said Brenda, stepping forward. Tom grunted out a derisively little laugh but didn't do anything to stop her.

The woman from the machine had a tense smile on her face and she looked around the buildings furtively. She really didn't look like she wanted to be there but she strode forward briskly, unfalteringly. So quick was her movement that Brenda recoiled a little.

“Don't be afraid,” said the woman. “I'm Detective Inspector Sara Marwat, we spoke yesterday on the comm link. May we go somewhere to speak alone?”

Rob had never seen anyone so easily master their own evident fear. The look in the inspector's eyes, which were a little moist with tears, was on the verge of panic but her gestures and her tone suggested only confidence and purpose.

“I got nothing to say these folk ain't fit to hear,” said Brenda. “And where are my toktols finally? What's the idea of sending your little scouts ahead empty handed?”

“Scouts?” said the inspector.

“Hello, I'm the Doctor,” said Rob's new friend pleasantly. “My companion here is Rob Fenner. Your name is Sara, I gather?”

Inspector Marwat looked at the Doctor and Rob in surprise but spoke to Brenda as though they weren't even there. With her eyes on the Doctor and Rob, she reached into a pocket on her left hip and produced several pink and white coins. “Here. Now what can you tell me about the night of February Fifth and Leland Shaw?”

Brenda smirked, putting the coins in a grubby purse hanging at her side. “He was at the party, all right. And Bobby Nelson and Eddie Yamaguchi were there, too, just like you said. Eddie tried that new beer from Harpsol and got sick in front of everyone. Leland and Bobby were playing darts.” She shrugged. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

“What was Eddie wearing?” the inspector persisted.

Brenda looked curiously at the woman. “I don't know. Shirt and trousers I guess. Don't remember the colour. The colour of puke by the end of the night I guess.”

The inspector considered this a moment then finally nodded. “Thank you for your cooperation, Miss Vitti. You may go.”

Brenda mockingly bowed before sauntering off. The others remained, watching the inspector.

“Well done!” said the Doctor, coming forward. “A keen nose has the local law enforcement, I see. It might interest you--”

“Who are you?” the inspector interrupted.

“As I said, I'm the Doctor and this is my companion, Rob. We're new here, travellers. I was wondering--”

“Travellers from where? Where was your point of entry on Mallos?”

“Mallos, ah! Of course.” The Doctor smiled and ran a hand through her hair as she looked about again at the buildings and at the twilight sky dotted with dark grey clouds.

“We came in that box yonder,” Rob said, pointing at the TARDIS. The inspector turned to look at the blue box and stared at it quietly. She still looked a little frightened and instinctively he wanted to reassure her. “The Doctor's right, I think, you're doing good work. A constable or magistrate of some kind, are you?”

At this the Doctor looked at Rob sharply, curiously, before turning to the inspector again. “You see, inspector, I understand there are five injured people nearby in need of medical assistance. Perhaps you can help me persuade these people to allow me to examine them?”

“Why?” asked the inspector.

“Er, like I said, I'm a doctor and I believe I might be of some help.” The Doctor licked her lips, waiting for the inspector to respond. “Maybe there's nothing I can do . . . but I won't know that until I see them, will I?”

“You're wasting your breath!” said Tom, laughing. “The good E-Yun Detective Inspector could care less for Diana and the girls!”

Detective Inspector Marwat regarded the Doctor with a look of abject terror. She looked ready to completely break down. The Doctor seemed at this point to finally notice it.

“Now, now, it's quite all right,” said the Doctor. “Er. Everything will be fine. You're doing a very good job and you'll be home, nice and safe, before you know it, I'm sure. I'm sure I can persuade Tom here to show me to his friends.”

“Yeah, all right, I suppose so,” Tom said grudgingly. “You don't seem like an E-Yun, anyhow.”

“It was very nice meeting you,” said the Doctor, starting to follow Tom. But Inspector Marwat also started to follow.

“I will accompany you,” she said, only a slight tremor in her voice as she stepped forward, pressing something on her wrist. Behind her, the hatch closed on her strange craft.

“That's the spirit!” said the Doctor. “Stay close to me and Rob and you'll be all right. Rob's a good stout lad, he'll see you come to no harm.”

Rob flushed red but added, “Yes, m'lady. Quite.” He offered his arm, wishing his sleeve wasn't so dirty. She looked at his elbow a moment, puzzled, and didn't take it. They all started together down the broken lane, Tom in the lead followed by the Doctor. Rob, walking beside the inspector, followed last.

“So . . .” he began, searching for a frame of reference. He'd never tried talking to one of the native girls at any of the ports in the West Indies. The last time he got anywhere with a woman was when he started talking to an English servant maid about living through the siege of Gloucester. “So . . . you're searching—doing a . . .” Words failed him. “What brings you here?”

She shot him a fearful look and then continued looking straight ahead but answered, “I'm investigating the poisoning of several Aeon citizens.”

“Aeon—oh, E-Yuns,” he realised lamely.

“Yes, that's what the Wanters call us,” she said softly, in almost a whisper. The Doctor had fallen back a bit, clearly having been listening to them the whole time.

“Wanters?” asked Rob. “Why do you call them that? What do they want?”

“How do you not know any of this?” she asked Rob.

“Rob is terribly out of touch,” the Doctor said apologetically. “Really, Rob, do pay attention.”

Rob laughed ruefully, “Right. I've been at sea too long, you might say.”

“The Wanters . . . want,” the inspector said helplessly. “That's how they live. Everything they do is because the want something. They want toktols or food or sex.”

“I see. Don't we all want some things now and then, though?” asked Rob.

The inspector blushed and dropped back, clearly wanting to disengage. Rob looked helplessly at the Doctor.

“By now, my boy, 'want' has come exclusively to mean desire, to covet,” the Doctor explained in a low voice.

“Oh,” said Rob, glancing back. “Is she a Puritan?”

“I very much doubt it . . .” she trailed off as she caught sight of something and smiled. “Hmm! Look at that.”

He followed her gaze and saw that the ubiquitous buildings had thinned out enough to allow a glimpse of grey hillside. On the hillside against the darkening sky was what looked like a Roman aqueduct except the top of it was glowing bright orange.

“'Zounds!” said Rob. “What on Earth is that?”

“Not on Earth, Rob,” she leaned in closer to him, her big eyes drawing him in. “We've come to the planet Mallos. And that, my boy, is part of a sophisticated system for harnessing geothermal power.”

“Geo—what?” he watched her breathlessly.

Her voice dipped dramatically, “Volcanoes. They use the power of volcanos to create automated light and heat—and many other wonders.”

“Incredible,” was all he could say, overcome fully now by the strangeness of how far he'd come. “And he people here--'tis all very like The Man in the Moon.”

“Read that, did you? You are full of surprises. We've come much further than the moon, though, and this world is much bigger. Tell me, Rob,” said the Doctor, now looking down at her feet, still clad in heeled slippers with ivory silk bows, as she picked her away over jagged, blackened plaster and masonry. “When you said the inspector had done a good job, what did you mean?”

“Well, like you said,” Rob glanced at the Doctor. “She's a canny inquisitor.”

“Yes, but why, exactly?”

“Well, she asked about some fellows named . . . Eddie and Leland . . . but what she really wanted to know was whether Brenda was in that party, I think. If Brenda had tried to act like she remembered what that fellow Eddie was wearing, or tried avoiding the question, the inspector would have concluded Brenda was lying,”

“Ah ha, yes! That's right,” the Doctor grinned, looking ahead. “Brenda was a suspect. And now, she knows Brenda has an alibi for February Fifth.”

“Ah . . .” said Rob slowly, glancing back at the taciturn inspector. “And so she's come with us now . . .”

“Because we likely look like prime suspects ourselves,” finished the Doctor.


TO BE CONTINUED
Batman Displeased

The Longed for Convenience of Tyranny



Some would say the hardest part about catching lawbreakers are all those damned laws. Take the makers of 1938's Gang Bullets which opens with this extraordinary crawl:



Anyone who doesn't understand the point of due process might get a kick out of this movie. It's ideologically the opposite of the one I wrote about yesterday, though I didn't plan it that way. Yesterday's movie, City of Silent Men, about ex-cons trying to fight against the prejudice of the town, is the philosophically superior but artistically inferior film. Gang Bullets, directed by Lambert Hillyer, is ridiculous and slightly scary but, like many things that are ridiculous and slightly scary, it's a lot of fun.

District Attorney Dexter Wayne (Charles Trowbridge) is constantly frustrated in his attempts to put away "Big Bill" Anderson (Morgan Wallace) for good. Big Bill knows it, too, and laughs off every panicked plea from his henchmen regarding this or that scheme. After all, Big Bill knows he has his lawyer to weasel him out of any jam.



Meanwhile, an anonymous writer calling himself "Junius" openly mocks Wayne in the local paper to the sorrow of his daughter, Patricia (Anne Nagel), and the chagrin of her fiance, John (Robert Kent), Wayne's assistant. But Wayne is a craftier fellow than anyone gives him credit for. Before this story's over he'll catch Big Bill with a little help from a dictaphone and a grenade.



Hillyer and his screenwriter, John T. Neville, have great instincts for this kind of storytelling, creating excitement with editing and making even ancillary characters stand out in the episodic narrative. Whether it's the gambler Wayne pressures into ratting on his boss or a little boy who's just excited to get a look at a nearby dead body. I love filmmakers who don't sentimentalise children.

Gang Bullets is available on Amazon Prime.
Cuffs

Those Seductive Ex-Cons



You do the crime, you do the time, and then you're supposed to carve out a normal life. It's not always so simple, though, as we see in 1942's City of Silent Men. No nuanced psychological tale or film noir, this is basically a homefront wartime propaganda film reminding citizens that just because a guy once robbed a bank doesn't mean he can't be part of the effort to feed forces overseas fighting the Nazis.

Two drifters, Gil (Frank Albertson) and Frank (Barton Hepburn), order some food from a diner they can't pay for. The ornery owner (Dick Curtis) has them arrested but before the judge can sentence them the mayor (William Gould) intervenes. Not only does he take the drifters into his own custody, he gives them a canning factory.



This mayor knows ex-cons like Gil and Frank have a hard time finding work and they can't join the armed forces without letters of recommendation. So many ex-cons are forced back into a life of crime perpetuating a vicious cycle. One of the problems they face is prejudice, something illustrated quickly when the whole town turns out against them, first at a town hall meeting, then as a mob.



The performances are okay but not terribly great. The movie does get a bit interesting when a love triangle is introduced--as much as the town hates him, Gil effortlessly charms both the diner waitress, Jane (Jan Wiley), and the mayor's daughter, Helen (June Lang).



In addition to angering everyone, especially Jane's father and Helen's brother, it ends with Jane plunging into despair when she assumes Gil prefers Helen. At first, Gil doesn't seem especially interested in either one but oddly he kind of just seems to default to Helen when Jane throws in the towel. That's a lesson for the ladies, too--you could be your own worst enemy. Don't assume that ex-con who works at the canning factory is out of your reach.

City of Silent Men is available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1358

The plastic cup cannot surpass the glass.
No matter made the stone from iceless punch.
It gathered rocks in crumbled metal mass.
The things a giant chews in lieu of lunch.
A thoughtful pipe requites a wish or two.
In rings of smoke the houses slowly build.
Between the yellow leaves were trunks of blue.
So green the forest fate was soundly sealed.
Reflective nets suggest a slower dream.
As crawling time emerged, the curtain fell.
Replacement suns reside inside the beam.
Important sounds await inside the bell.
The heavy banners made the stone a ball.
Processions trod the soaking paper hall.
Bad Luck Bosch

The Unblemished Record of the Unblemished Princess



Some heroes fight for victory, others get by on their good looks. Into the latter category belongs the protagonist of 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a largely faithful adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale from the early 19th century, which was in turn inspired by oral tradition or possibly, according to some sources, one or two real young ladies. Beautifully animated by Walt Disney, it's an instructive film for children both in ways general and specific, from the importance of submitting to the universal natural order to the necessity of washing your hands before supper.



One of Adolf Hitler's favourite movies, I was reminded in my recent viewing of another of Hitler's favourite films, Fritz Lang's great adaptations of the Nibelungenlied from the '20s (neither Disney nor Lang were fans of Hitler, it should be noted). Like the eleventh or twelve century epic poem on which it's based, Nibelungenlied focuses on the Germanic/Norse hero Siegfried or Sigurd. Siegfried is the son of a king, exiled to the woods from a young age, and raised by a smith (a dwarf in some versions). The rapport he has with the natural world helps him to survive and thrive, especially after he learns how to talk to birds. This power he acquires after slaying and drinking the blood of a dragon. Eventually, his death comes due partly to the jealousy of women in his life.



The differences between Siegfried's and Snow White's stories break down neatly on lines of conventional expectations for their respective genders. Snow White's story is similar except she hits the same points by remaining passive or running away that Siegfried hits by exploring or conquering. She runs from the huntsman, she allows herself to be directed by the woodland creatures to the cottage of the dwarfs. She accepts the apple from the Queen without much hesitation--she's even more submissive in the original tale, accepting multiple hazardous gifts from the Queen before the final apple.



The Queen, obsessed with being the most beautiful woman in the world, takes the strikingly odd step of making herself hideous in the Disney film, something she doesn't do in the original Grimm story where she's described as merely disguising herself. In the film, she relishes the sight of her hands withering while a crow, here a representative of the natural world unlike the similar one in Sleeping Beauty, looks on in terror. While the Queen compulsively checks to see if there's an antidote to the poison she applies to the apple, she never checks to see if the spell she's used to change her form is reversible. Not that it matters when she plunges to her death and is devoured by vultures--more birds representing the natural world.



The Queen is motivated to acquire things she has no right to by natural law--a mother or step mother shouldn't be more beautiful, and therefore more attractive to suitors, than her daughter. By remaining submissive to the flow of life, Snow White prevails even when the Queen effectively kills her. Death is natural so real death is obviously something the Queen can't manage to inflict. So Snow White wins a Prince Charming, their relationship never as complex as the one between Snow White and the dwarf Grumpy.



Grumpy, whose nose looks like a potato, is a bit of a tsundere. He says he doesn't like or trust women but he still slyly wants a kiss on the forehead from Snow White, just like the other dwarfs. When Snow White is praying, she singles out Grumpy, asking that God make him like her. Here's fertile ground for slash fiction.



By enforcing domestic normalcy in the home, by cleaning the furniture and forcing the dwarfs to wash their hands, Snow White shows herself to be integrated with the natural order, as do the dwarfs who dutifully march off to work every day. Of course, a relationship between Snow White and Grumpy would face many obstacles not to be found between the Prince and the Princess. Problems related to age and social class would have to be considered. The film's moral lesson of conformity would, to be fair, probably be conducive to health and familial harmony. On the other hand, why shouldn't the Queen have the beauty that doesn't even seem to be that important to her step-daughter? I suppose Snow White shouldn't have to worry about whether she can attract a viable mate. If she couldn't convey the impression of creating a healthy and happy home, she may well make her husband miserable and sick.

When talking about archetypes, they can be applied pretty flexibly to various real life social and cultural circumstances to which a weirder, more complex tale can't. Still, it's fun to fantasise about Snow White running off with Grumpy.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is available on Disney+.
Then Again

Staying In Scarran Space



It's a quarantine lockdown on Farscape on a Scarran space station in a plot that finally makes something more of Noranti than a walking gag.



Season Four, Episode Nineteen: We're So Screwed, Part 1: Fetal Attraction

We have a chance to meet more Kalish, Sikozu's (Raelee Hill) people who are subjugated by the Scarrans and running the border station on which the episode takes place.



When it turns out the ship carrying Aeryn (Claudia Black) is about to leave in thirty minutes, Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) hastily concocts a strategy that involves provoking a relapse of a highly contagious disease Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) had at some point in the past, when he was Dominar. This buys some time as the station administrator is forced to call a lockdown, detaining the Scarran ship. Since Kalish and Sebaceans aren't immune to the disease, Noranti has to work quickly to cure Rygel.



Melissa Jaffer is a good actress--she'd been on the show previously as a dying Luxan in season two and she would go on to have a small role in Mad Max: Fury Road--so it's good to see Noranti being more than the omniscient, mysterious healer or the old lady who likes to gross out the young people. You can see her frantic as she tries to hold onto her identity as the mystic with all the answers, fronting a confidence as she digs through herbs and potions. Inevitably she has to face the fact that her solution for saving Aeryn results in the deaths of uninvolved Kalish and Sebaceans.



It also gives Rygel an all too rare moment to reflect on his time as a Dominar in a way that shows him as more than caricature. As a ruler, he too, had to make decisions which would inevitably cause people to die with never any certainty that an alternative wouldn't be better. But Rygel concludes by saying, "Welcome to Moya" and, indeed, one of the nice things about Farscape is that it doesn't shy away from putting its characters in difficult positions.



Physical as well as philosophical. Poor Aeryn endures more in season four than in the other three seasons put together. I suppose she hasn't quite caught up to all of the involuntary surgery and mind rape Crichton (Ben Browder) has been subjected to, though. Not the kind of competition you want to win.

. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on
Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties


Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think
Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton
Episode 14: Beware of Dog
Episode 15: Won't Get Fooled Again
Episode 16: The Locket
Episode 17: The Ugly Truth
Episode 18: A Clockwork Nebari
Episode 19: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part I: A Not So Simple Plan
Episode 20: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part II: With Friends Like These . . .
Episode 21: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part III: Plan B
Episode 22: Die Me, Dichotomy


Season Three:

Episode 1: Season of Death
Episode 2: Suns and Lovers
Episode 3: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part I: Would'a, Could'a, Should'a
Episode 4: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part II: Wait for the Wheel
Episode 5: . . . Different Destinations
Episode 6: Eat Me
Episode 7: Thanks for Sharing
Episode 8: Green Eyed Monster
Episode 9: Losing Time
Episode 10: Relativity
Episode 11: Incubator
Episode 12: Meltdown
Episode 13: Scratch 'n Sniff
Episode 14: Infinite Possibilities, Part I: Daedalus Demands
Episode 15: Infinite Possibilities, Part II: Icarus Abides
Episode 16: Revenging Angel
Episode 17: The Choice
Episode 18: Fractures
Episode 19: I-Yensch, You-Yensch
Episode 20: Into the Lion's Den, Part I: Lambs to the Slaughter
Episode 21: Into the Lion's Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Episode 22: A Dog with Two Bones


Season Four

Episode 1: Crichton Kicks
Episode 2: What was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice
Episode 3: What was Lost, Part II: Resurrection
Episode 4: Lava's a Many Splendoured Thing
Episode 5: Promises
Episode 6: Natural Election
Episode 7: John Quixote
Episode 8: I Shrink Therefore I Am
Episode 9: A Prefect Murder
Episode 10: Coup by Clam
Episode 11: Unrealised Reality
Episode 12: Kansas
Episode 13: Terra Firma
Episode 14: Twice Shy
Episode 15: Mental as Anything
Episode 16: Bringing Home the Beacon
Episode 17: A Constellation of Doubt
Episode 18: Prayer
Axe

Just How Much Good is a Gun?



Even for the most adept femmes fatale, it can be dangerous to break the heart of an expert marksman. But Mary Beth Hughes does it anyway in 1945's The Great Flamarion, a good low budget noir from Anthony Mann, a director more associated with Westerns.



Erich von Stroheim plays Flamarion, a stoic trick shooter who we see performing onstage alongside husband and wife assistants played by Mary Beth Hughes and Dan Duryea. They play out a little scene where Flamarion pretends to be the husband who comes home to find his wife with her lover. He then precedes to shoot wine glasses, light bulbs, and pieces of Hughes' clothing, including parts of her garters.



Von Stroheim was a great film director as well as an actor and I feel like I've read somewhere analysis of the movie that discusses at length the symbolism of a director literally shooting at his starlet vis-a-vis male gaze or some such. Flamarion does turn out to be a bit repressed and afraid of women--we learn later he had his heart broken by someone named Alma but as far as we're told he's never actually committed acts of violence against women. He just wants to be alone.



That won't do for Connie (Hughes) who wants her husband, Al (Duryea), dead. Al is a drunk so it's not hard to come up with a feasible reason why Flamarion might "accidentally" shoot him during the act. The marksman's tendency to spend all his free time in his room, alone with his gun (make of that what you will), unsurprisingly does nothing to prepare him against Connie's charms. One kiss and he's smitten.



Connie, meanwhile, has her sights set on Eddie (Stephen Barclay). And who knows who else. Hughes is no Barbara Stanwyck or Jane Greer as far as performance goes--you might remember her from the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 classic I Accuse My Parents--but she is ravishing. Von Stroheim is not the best actor but his rigidity works very well to convey Flamarion's repression. Dan Duryea, of course, is always great.

The Great Flamarion is available on Amazon Prime and probably a lot of other places since it's public domain.

And Happy Birthday to-day to the creator of Dancy Flammarion (relation unknown), Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Twitter Sonnet #1358

The wooden saucer holds a spoon of drink.
A tankard thought surpassed supplies of gin.
For all the wine in mind could never sink.
And all the cans could never crack the bin.
Embedded thoughts create a normal voice.
It's time to walk to ev'ry job at once.
Imbued in ev'ry brain's a wavy choice.
It's time to start the weekly freezer hunts.
Confection ferries bring the heavy goods.
The path of candy changed from mint to cream.
Remembrance makes the yearly mental woods.
A settled loop incites the churning dream.
The counted worlds were suns and stars abroad.
A burning land belies the name of sod.