007 December – The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) – Robbins Realm

robbinsrealm:

I would very much like to thank Rob, of Movierob, for allowing me to participate in his month long James Bond Blogathon. If you are not already a follower of his blog, I highly recommend that you become one. He writes well constructed, informative reviews, on films in a diverse array of genres.

Originally posted on :

007-December Blogathon

Here’s a review by Jonathan of Robbin’s Realm of The Man With The Golden Gun (1974).

Thanks Jonathan!

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“The Man with the Golden Gun”

The familiar theme music begins. Written by Monty Norman, and performed by the John Barry Orchestra, this particular theme is used in association with only one character throughout all of cinematic history – 007, James Bond. In this particular outing, the iconic character is portrayed by Golden Globe winner, Roger Moore (For Your Eyes Only). He is walking, whilst being followed by a gun scope. Midway through his walk, Bond stops, turns, takes aim, and fires his Walther PPK gun. This causes the screen to drip blood red, as if 007 has just vanquished the latest criminal mastermind he had been in pursuit of.

Cut to the opening scene on a private beach, where Hervé Villechaize’s (Fantasy Island) character, Nick Nack, is carrying a tray of…

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“Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

“Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object, then the checkout you’ve just witnessed, with two state troopers verifying the event – but with nothing more enlightening to add beyond evidence of some tracks leading across the highway to a diner. You’ve heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now, and you’ll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle, no, their task is even harder. They’ve got to find a Martian in a diner, and in just a moment you’ll search with them, because you’ve just landed – in The Twilight Zone.”

The preceding is the opening narration, spoken by Emmy and Golden Globe winner Rod Serling, who not only created the iconic “Twilight Zone” series, but scripted the season two episode, “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up.” The twenty-five minute episode was directed by Montgomery Pittman, who in addition to this offering, helmed four other “Twilight Zone” shows: “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” “Dead Man’s Shoes,” “The Grave,” and “Two.” The episode originally aired on May 26, 1961. (As an aside: Rod Serling holds the record for the most Emmy Awards, for one writer, six in total, two of which he won for episodes he wrote for “The Twilight Zone.”)

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Many of “The Twilight Zone” episodes would ask the viewer thought provoking questions on a variety of topics. Issues at a time in history, that might have been considered incendiary, however, when couched in the vein of science-fiction and fantasy, could be discussed openly. This, would not have been, one such episode. At its core, “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?” is meant to look at people and how they deal with paranoia, suddenly thrust upon them. Unlike the more serious themed “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street,” this episode, while still a solid, well written show, doesn’t take itself too seriously. For the most part, except for a piece of information dispensed by a character toward the end of the episode, the show has a more comedic tone, when judged on its overall content.

The episode opens in a place called Hooks Landing, on a snowy evening. Strange noises are heard, accompanied by a crash that is not shown on screen. Investigating the crash site are two state troopers (John Archer & Morgan Jones), who let it be known to the viewer, that they received a phone call from a woman who wanted them to call in the national guard for assistance. The troopers notice that some tree tops have been knocked down, but whatever did crash, landed in the nearby pond, and as one of them makes mention, whatever it is, will not be revealed until spring. The only piece of evidence the troopers have to go on is a set of footprints that are leading away from the pond, toward a place called the Hi-Way Cafe.

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Once inside the cafe, the troopers count seven patrons: A man, who has his back turned to them at the counter (Jack Elam); a single woman (Jean Willes); two couples, one is later revealed to be married twenty-three years (Bill Erwin & Gertrude Flynn). The others are newlyweds (Ron Kipling & Jill Ellis); a bus driver (William Kendis); and a businessman (John Hoyt). One of the troopers asks the bus driver for a passenger manifest, which the man laughingly dismisses. The driver states that there were only six people on the bus. The only problem is, that seven people, according to Haley (Barney Phillips), the owner of the establishment, all entered the diner simultaneously. He also states that he hasn’t served anyone else since 11:00 o’clock that morning. The troopers let it be known, as to their suspicions regarding an alien presence being amongst the diner patrons.

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The mystery, as to who the Martian is, does not immediately have to be solved. The bus driver is informed by one of the troopers, that the bridge up ahead has been closed, due to dangerous weather conditions, so no one will be leaving until the morning. That is a piece of news that is greeted with grumbling, especially from the businessman, who states that he has to be in Boston by 9:00 a.m. the next day.

During their time in the diner, everyone begins to suspect the other of being the Martian. The couples, both old and new, begin to question if they really know their spouses. The businessman, dismisses every notion of alien life as ridiculous nonsense. Jack Elam, has fun with the whole situation, acting crazy and stirring people up with the things that he says. The fact that his face had such an odd look to it, to begin with, did nothing but help to enhance his nutty performance. The Martian, if that entity really exists, also helps to ramp up the tension. He or she, has the jukebox play music, without anyone having deposited money, it makes the lights flicker on and off, and at one point makes all of the sugar bowls throughout the diner explode. Just when things seem to be reaching the breaking point, the phone rings. Answering it, one of the troopers is informed by the town’s structural engineer that the bridge is now safe for driving on. Even though distrust has been built up amongst the seven people in the diner, as soon as their travel can commence, they all board the bus together. The troopers agree to lead the way for the bus, in their car.

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That is not the end of the story, for the real Martian will come walking back into the diner a short time later. “The Twilight Zone,” well known for its great twist endings, gives the viewer a double twist at the end of the show. One, that when I first viewed the episode, I didn’t know was going to take place, and I found it to be a welcome surprise. For those of you, who might be working your way through the series on Netflix, or have purchased the seasons on DVD and haven’t had a chance to start watching them yet, I won’t spoil the ending for you. Suffice it to say, I don’t think you will be disappointed by it.

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“In Search of Lee Harvey Oswald”

“It is virtually not assimilable to our reason that a small lonely man felled a giant in the midst of his limousines, his legions, his throng, and his security. If such a non-entity destroyed the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, then a world of disproportion engulfs us, and we live in a universe that is absurd.” 

Norman Mailer

Saturday, November 22, 2014, marked the 51st anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. An event that occurred, which when taken on par with several other tragedies, for example the Boston marathon bombing, ranks amongst one of the worst events that has ever taken place on American soil. Conspiracy theories are more prevalent than ever these days, thanks to the internet and, of course, social media. I must admit, that occasionally, I find a particular conspiracy theory intriguing. For the most part, however, I dismiss them, as either deluded thinking on the part of the individual espousing them, or, at best, as half truths. However, the Kennedy assassination is the one conspiracy theory that, I must admit, has always held a deep fascination for me.

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I guess I have a hard time believing, that one, lone, disgruntled, American, Lee Harvey Oswald was the mastermind behind the operation that killed the then leader of the free world. I am not saying he didn’t take a shot. I am not saying he didn’t want to kill President Kennedy because of his warped psyche. I am stating, however, that I am more apt to believe the claim he made on live television, that he was “a patsy.” I have a much easier time rationalizing that Oswald was part of a greater scheme, orchestrated by more powerful and intelligent individuals. For that matter, I don’t think Sirhan Sirhan, was the lone assassin in the killing of President Kennedy’s brother, Robert Kennedy. That particular view-point of mine, is shared by Vincent Bugliosi, who is most famous for being the prosecutor who sent Charles Manson, and his ‘so called’ family members to jail; many of them originally to death row, only to have their sentences commuted to life in prison, once California changed its laws.

The reason I bring up Bugliosi, in particular, is that he is a vocally staunch opponent, when it comes to entertaining any notion that Lee Harvey Oswald, was not the lone assassin in the murder of President Kennedy. I am not sure why he has to maintain such a steadfast outlook on the possibility that Oswald was not the only one involved in the crime. He is willing to admit that witness testimony, as well as the location of the bullet wounds found on Robert Kennedy’s body, suggest that a possible conspiracy took place regarding the younger Kennedy’s murder. If given a chance to speak with him, I would ask Mr. Bugliosi, why he finds it so difficult, to give credence to dozens of witnesses, who not only saw smoke, but a man running from the area of the infamous grassy knoll, in Delay Plaza, immediately following the fatal head shot, which ended President Kennedy’s life.

Before I go any further, let’s take a step back in history: On November, 21, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States and Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady, boarded Air Force One for Texas, where they were going to be making five separate stops over a two day period. They arrived in San Antonio, where the First Lady and President Kennedy were welcomed by Vice President Johnson, John Connally, the Governor of Texas, and Senator Ralph W. Yarborough. Afterwards, the political contingent made its way to Brooks Air Force Base for a dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center. Houston, was the President’s next speaking engagement, where he spoke to a group of people who were attending a dinner in honor of Congressman Albert Thomas. At the end of the day, Kennedy and his entourage, stayed the night in a hotel in Fort Worth.

The following morning, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Kennedy addressed thousands of his supporters, outside of his hotel. Afterward, he attended the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast, that was being held in his honor, before travelling to Carswell Air Force Base for the short flight to Dallas.

After the President’s plane arrived at Love Air Force Base, the people, who had shown up to greet Kennedy and The First Lady, were ready to celebrate them with shouts of adulation and support. Disembarking from the plane, the attractive First Lady, dressed in her pink Chanel suit, and President Kennedy, the epitome of charisma, had their eardrums assaulted with just such an outpouring by their well wishers. Before getting into their waiting limousine, Kennedy shook hands over a fence that separated him from the throngs of devoted Americans, and Mrs. Kennedy, was handed a bouquet of red roses. Joining them for the ride to the Trade Mart, where President Kennedy was scheduled to speak at a luncheon, were Governor Connally and his wife.

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On route to the Trade Mart, Kennedy’s open top limousine wound its way through the heavily populated area of Dealey Plaza. At approximately 12:30, as the President’s motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository, gun shots were fired. Regardless of how many bullets were actually fired, which I will get to soon, two things are known for certain: One hit President Kennedy in the neck, and as mentioned previously, one in the head, taking with it, a rather large portion of the man’s skull. The Presidential limousine made its way as fast as it could to nearby Parkland Memorial Hospital. The heroic effort, while understandable, was sadly, in vain. There was nothing even the most brilliant surgeon who ever lived, could have done to repair the damage the head shot wound had caused. A famous video image, often shown from that day, is of iconic newsman, Walter Cronkite. He is addressing the American public, on black and white television, trying hard to maintain the composure in his tone of voice, as he reads the official confirmation from Dallas, that President Kennedy had been pronounced dead, at 1:00 p.m.

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On November 29, 1963, President Johnson, who had been Kennedy’s Vice-President and who, immediately upon Kennedy’s death, assumed the presidency, selected a group of seven men to look into the assassination. These men who were led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, became known as the Warren Commission. The investigative body was comprised of Kentucky Senator John Sherman Cooper, Georgia Senator Richard Russell, Louisiana Congressman and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, the former President of the World Bank John J. McCloy, the former CIA director Allen Dulles, and Congressman Gerald Ford, who would later become President of the United States, after Richard Nixon resigned the Oval Office. On September 27, 1964, the twenty-six volumes of the Warren Commission Report, were made available to the public, and stated that there was no conspiracy, and that only three shots were fired. The report, to this day, remains a source of great contention to the multitudes who believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in the murder of the President.

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To start with, numerous witnesses dismissed the commission’s conclusion regarding the number of shots fired, stating that they heard at least four if not five shots. Additionally, a great number of individuals stated that the shots came from the grassy knoll area, as well as the Texas School Book Depository. There have been many books written, television shows aired, and movies shown, on the various takes on President Kennedy’s assassination. One long-running television show had an episode that seemed to controvert the Warren Commission report. I watched it long after it originally aired on the History Channel, when the station began showing repeats of its “In Search Of” series

The one hundred and forty-four episodes of the show was hosted by Leonard Nimoy, who also added voice over commentary to the episodes. The program, which dealt with a diverse array of subjects, originally aired from September of 1976 through March of 1982. During its run, one episode dealt with Lee Harvey Oswald, and the series take on what might have really happened on that fateful day in Dallas. The Oswald episode, as many of the series shows, left me with more questions than answers. In turn, that caused me to look further into the Kennedy conspiracy.

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The particular episode talks about: a recording on a police radio, that hadn’t been heard until fifteen years after the assassination, which when analyzed, contained sounds waves indicating that at least four shots were fired; the contents of a fake Oswald diary; and the conversations and lie detector test that was given by the C.I.A. to a high level KGB Agent, Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, who defected from Russia to America, two months after the assassination. He just also happened to be the person who supervised Lee Harvey Oswald during the two years Oswald lived in the Soviet Union. The C.I.A. assumed that the Warren Commission would get to the truth regarding Nosenko, once they called him as a witness. The only problem with that, is that the Warren Commission never called Nosenko, so they never heard any testimony from someone who might have been able to shed greater light on the Kennedy assassination. The most fascinating aspect of the show was the discussion regarding the autopsy that was conducted on Lee Harvey Oswald’s body, before he was buried. The coroner conducting the autopsy found numerous discrepancies that confirmed that the body being examined wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald, but a look-a-like.

The show has a very dated look to it, to be sure, but that does not make the Oswald episode any less interesting and impactful. The episode is available, in its entirety, at least at the writing of this blog, on youtube.com. The entire series has also become available, for the first time, for purchase on DVD. If you are interested in the Kennedy assassination, especially the potential conspiracy aspects attached to the murder, this is an episode you will want to watch.

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“The Dead Zone”

Released on October 21, 1983, director David Cronenberg’s (Eastern Promises) atmospheric, well-executed, supernatural thriller, “The Dead Zone,” is an excellent adaptation of prolific author Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Written for the screen by Jeffrey Boam, (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) the 103 minute film was a departure for the director, whose previous films, “Rabid,” (1977) “The Brood,”(1979) “Scanners,”(1981) and “Videodrome,” (1983) all dealt with aspects of horror and science fiction; the only exception was the drag racing drama “Fast Company” (1979). Instead, “The Dead Zone” at its heart, deals with this philosophical question: If you knew what was going to transpire in the future and were in a position to prevent tragedy from taking place, even if it meant the possible loss of your freedom or life, would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good?

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Academy Award winning actor, Christopher Walken, (The Deer Hunter) in a strong and touching performance, portrays the character of English teacher, Johnny Smith. He is a man who is content in his life; he enjoys teaching his students and is very much in love with his fiancée Sarah Bracknell, a fellow school teacher played by Brooke Adams (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Almost immediately upon the viewer learning this information, after leaving Sarah’s house on a rainy evening, when she twice asked him to stay, Walken’s character is involved in a horrific car accident, which results in his being in a coma for five years. When he wakes, Smith learns that not only has he lost years off of his life, but Sarah has moved on, married, and is the mother of a ten month old boy. In addition, he discovers something else – that he has acquired the gift of psychic powers. As an aside, both King’s novel and Cronenberg’s film are loosely based on the life of the late Peter Hurkos, who was considered by experts to be the world’s foremost psychic. Hurkos claimed that after falling off of a ladder in 1941, an accident that resulted in a brain injury and placed him in a coma for three days, that he received the ability to see the past, present, and future.

While convalescing at the Weizak Clinic, which is run by actor Herbert Lom’s (The Pink Panther Strikes Again) character of the compassionate doctor Sam Weizak, Walken’s character is burning up; it appears as if he has a fever. A nurse, who bring towels into the room, sees that Smith is in discomfort. She walks over to him to wipe him down with a cool cloth. No sooner does she do that, then he touches her arm, and while his body is still physically at the clinic, his presence is also simultaneously witnessing the destructive forces of a fire that is raging at the home of the nurse. If that weren’t bad enough, the flames are moments away from claiming the life of the woman’s daughter, who is trapped in her bedroom. Johnny tells the nurse, in a most emphatic tone, that her daughter is in trouble, but that it is not too late to save her. Fortunately, the nurse listens to Johnny and doesn’t just dismiss what he is saying as the delusional ramblings of a man suffering from a high fever. In this scene, during which Smith’s psychic powers are first demonstrated, as well as throughout the remainder of the film, when Johnny receives a vision from touching someone, he flinches and goes into an intense, trance-like state where he witnesses things in a vivid way, but cannot interfere with what is taking place.

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In addition to Adams, Lom, and Walken, the cast includes actor Tom Skerritt, (Picket Fences) who is very believable in the role of Bannerman, the sheriff of the town of Castle Rock…a lawman, who is at his wits end. He has exhausted all avenues of proper police procedure, and has found virtually no evidence in his hunt to capture a man dubbed the ‘Castle Rock Killer,’ who has murdered a number of women. He comes to Smith’s parents’ home in an effort to persuade Johnny to assist him with uncovering the identity of the killer – something, which at first, Johnny refuses to do, but later agrees to. Anthony Zerbe (The Omega Man) comes into Smith’s life as millionaire, Roger Stuart, who hires Johnny, no longer a school teacher, now a private tutor, to attempt to bring his shy son out of his shell and become more interested in his education. Last, but in no way least, is Emmy and Golden Globe award winning actor, Martin Sheen’s (The Departed) commanding performance of zealous, senatorial candidate, Greg Stillson. Sheen is magnetic in the role as a man of the people politician, who captivates crowds with his charisma and rouses them to cheers with his firebrand oratory. On the surface, he claims that he wants to serve the interests of the common man in Washington D.C., but he is secretly a conniving, two-faced, megalomaniac, who could not care less about the common person. He feels it is his destiny to ascend to the presidency, and if accomplished, Smith learns after shaking Stillson’s hand, would propel the world into nuclear destruction.

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Trivia buffs take note: The director wanted to change the name of King’s character because he felt that it was too bland; that no one would be named Johnny Smith. In reading King’s novel, the author makes mention of the fact that the name sounds like a fictitious one. While Walken was cast in the role of Smith and Skerritt was cast as Bannerman, King actually wanted actor Bill Murray, (Ghostbusters) for the role of Johnny and Cronenberg wanted Hal Holbrook, (Wall Street) for the part of the sheriff. The same year Martin Sheen portrayed politician Greg Stillson, who as previously mentioned has dreams of one day being the President, he played America’s 35th President, John F. Kennedy, in the television mini-series, “Kennedy.” Sixteen years later, in 1999, Sheen was cast in the role of fictitious President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet on the television show “The West Wing,” which ran until 2006. In order to add more realism to the flinching facial expressions his character exhibited when he touched someone and got one of his visions, Walken had the director, off camera, fire a gun that was loaded with blanks.

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“The Dead Zone” is sometimes spoken about as a horror film. I don’t agree with that. I feel it is chilling in parts, and has wonderful moments of suspense, but it is devoid of gore, and except for one scene involving the serial killer, features almost no blood; it is cerebral horror at best, due to the heavy psychological aspects of the movie, as well as the weighty questions it prompts a viewer to ask after watching the film. Christopher Walken, gives one of the finest performances of his career. He is able to convey to the viewer the emotional turmoil that is taking place within his frail body and communicates, via his facial expressions, a gamut of emotions ranging from warmth to fear, both prior to, and after, he is armed with the knowledge of what Greg Stillson will do in the future. What will be Johnny Smith’s course of action? Will he attempt to warn people about Stillson? Does he take matters into his own hands and attempt to assassinate the senatorial candidate? Can he justify killing Stillson based on a vision from a power he has only just recently acquired? All of those questions and more will be answered if you invest the under two hours of time it takes to watch this 1983 gem.

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“The End of Boardwalk Empire”

Warning: If you haven’t watched ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ and are considering doing so, now that the series has concluded, you will want to skip this blog, because it will contain spoilers. For those of you, who have been watching since the show’s inception, but haven’t seen the series through to its final episode, you will definitely, not want to continue reading this particular blog, until you have watched the series’ finale.

As is evident from the title of this blog, the following is not a recap of the five seasons – from September 2010 through October of 2014 – that “Boardwalk Empire” ran on HBO. The series, which is a mixture of the genres of crime, drama, and history, during its run won the Golden Globe in 2011 for Best Television Drama. The show takes place primarily in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. For those of you unfamiliar with that part of American history, the arrival of the law that led to Prohibition started with The Temperance Movement. Their rank and file mainly consisted of religious women, who were tired of the men in their lives consuming alcohol, and taking their frustrations out on them or their children, in a physical manner. Additionally, the movement blamed other societal ills on alcohol, such as crime and poverty; and Temperance Movement members, and those that supported them, regularly espoused the dangerous toll intoxication took on a person’s health.

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With a steadfast determination, those in the movement eventually were successful in getting the United States government to enact The Volstead Act, legislation that led to the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. What the law did was make the buying, transporting, or selling of liquor, illegal in America. Naturally, sensing an opportunity to give the public what they craved, criminals began operating lucrative establishments known as speakeasys, where liquor was served. Speakeasys were not the only places available to purchase alcohol, different businesses were also used as fronts for the sole purpose of the sale of liquor. (As an aside: America’s 28th President, Woodrow Wilson, initially vetoed the legislation that would lead to Prohibition, but because congress had the necessary two thirds majority to override his veto, his attempt at stopping the law failed.)

The series main protagonist, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, portrayed by Golden Globe winner Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs) was one such person who answered the public’s thirst for liquor. Initially, the character he portrays is a politician, the treasurer of Atlantic City. When he resigns that position later on in the series, he becomes a gangster/business man, which in essence, he already was. His political title was mostly for show. Nucky routinely broke the law, or made the necessary deals, to advance his money making agenda, at any given time during the series’ run.

BE PIC 2While Buscemi’s character was fictional, over the course of the series, the writers on the show, cleverly weaved criminals of historical significance into the plot, for Nucky to have business dealings or disputes with. At one point or another, the series featured: BAFTA nominated, Stephen Graham (This is England) as Al Capone; Vincent Piazza (Jersey Boys) as Lucky Luciano; Golden Globe nominated actor Michael Stuhlbarg (Men in Black 3) as Arnold Rothstein; and Anatol Yusef (The Gathering) in the role of Meyer Lansky; as well as a host of other famous and lesser known gangsters. Because of the involvement of the criminal element in the illegal ‘bootlegging’ business, as it was commonly known, the Eighteenth Amendment did more harm than good. Alcohol was being consumed at a higher rate than before the law was enacted. Members of law enforcement, who tried to stop those from partaking in illegal drinking or the selling of it, were often murdered. The money that was being made from customers was not taxed, so an immeasurable amount of revenue, in what at the time was a porous economy, was lost to the government. On December 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had run on a platform of repealing Prohibition, saw to it that congress, overwhelmingly passed the necessary legislation to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment, ending the Prohibition Era. (As an aside: The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is still the only amendment to ever be repealed.)

BE PIC 3The fifth season was flashback heavy, focusing on scenes of Nucky as a child (Nolan Lyons), and as a young man, making the transition from adolescence into adulthood, when he becomes Deputy Sheriff Thompson (Marc Pickering). Two women, more than any other people, had a direct influence on the trajectory of Nucky’s life. The first was Mabel Jeffries (Maya Kazan), which was literally a case of love at first sight. She was a woman he would marry, and attempt to have children with, but sadly, she miscarried twice, and died while attempting to give birth to the second child. Even forty-five years later, as he is gathering his personal belongings from his office, he still has the first thing she ever gave him. The item is a hand written card, on which are the following words: “We are here for a few weeks every summer, Mabel Jeffries. P.S. I would have let you kiss me.”

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As previously stated, this blog is not a recap of the fifth, or any of the other seasons, but certain information needs to be brought up. It is while Nucky is working as the Deputy Sheriff, that he first encounters a prepubescent Gillian (Madeleine Rose Yen). The older Gillian Darmody, portrayed by Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page) throughout the other seasons, was a main character on the show, but it wasn’t until the end, that I realized how vital, the connection she and Nucky had to one another was; how their relationship helped to shape, or more accurately destroy, one another’s lives.

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Nucky catches Gillian trying to sell cigarettes she has stolen, to people on the boardwalk. He doesn’t want to throw her in jail, so he takes her home for the evening. There Gillian tells Mabel her story, about where she ran away from, and why she doesn’t want to go back. Nucky, has no choice, but to return her to the children’s orphanage she has escaped from. Even though she begs and pleads that she can help his wife around the house, and with the eventual raising of the child. Nucky can’t afford to keep Gillian with him and Mabel. He can barely afford things for just the two of them. When he returns from work, one evening, a few nights later, he learns that Gillian has run away. He makes no attempt to go after her.

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During the next day’s Neptune Parade, it turns out she didn’t run away at all. In fact, he spots Gillian in the parade. When he confronts her about why she is still in Atlantic City, she lets him know that “she thought it would be fun to be in the parade.” Unbeknownst to Nucky, at the time, a conversation he has with Gillian foreshadows what is to transpire in a few short minutes. Gillian tells Nucky that Mabel told her that he wants to be good, he just doesn’t know how to? Up until that point, was Mabel Jeffries right in her line of thinking when it came to her husband? Nucky certainly demonstrated, time and again, during the series’ run, that he was quick witted, intelligent, and had a keen awareness of the right words to use when speaking to any given individual. Could he have been a doctor, lawyer, reputable business man, and amassed just as large a fortune through legal means? Sure, it most likely would have taken more time to achieve the sort of lifestyle he craved, but in the end, he might have died peacefully in his bed, as an old man, surrounded by loved ones, instead of violently. While Nucky is speaking with Gillian, someone informs him that The Commodore, the main boss of Atlantic City, wants to speak with him.

Commodore, Louis Kaestner, is initially played as a much older man, earlier in the series, by Primetime Emmy winner, Dabney Coleman (The Slap Maxwell Story). The younger version of The Commodore (John Ellison Conlee) appears throughout the fifth season. What business does he want Nucky to attend to? Unbelievably, it is the surrendering of his badge, considering the unquestioning service Nucky has performed at the behest of the Commodore, through his boss, the former sheriff, who had resigned, a short time earlier. Nucky, ever the dutiful employee, does as he is told, and then is dismissed. Refusing to let things go at that, he states all that he has done for the man, while in his employ, something which The Commodore is not impressed by. The Commodore lets Nucky know that he doesn’t have faith in him. Does The Commodore see in Thompson the same good his wife knows exists within him? Is that why he can’t allow Nucky to be the law in Atlantic City? Anyone who had been watching since the start, is aware that The Commodore is a vile individual, who besides being involved in the commission of other crimes, has sick sexual proclivities when it comes to children.

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A dejected Nucky, who appears to be on the verge of tears, walks back to Gillian. After briefly speaking with her, he is approached by The Commodore’s second in command. The man informs Nucky, that there is a youth that The Commodore wishes to place into service. The child is Gillian. Nucky wants to know what that has to do with him. He is told, that, that type of job is performed by the Sheriff. The man reaches into his pocket and pulls out the Sheriff’s badge, offering it to Thompson. Again, perhaps demonstrating the good that still resided in him up until that very moment, Nucky doesn’t snatch the badge out of the man’s hand, grab hold of Gillian without a second thought, and take her to The Commodore’s home. He hesitates, and stops to think before acting. Unfortunately, his confliction doesn’t last long. He takes the badge, and turns around to talk Gillian into allowing The Commodore to help her out. It is in that brief moment, that Nucky irrevocably changes both of their lives forever. The chance for advancement, to have what he never did, growing up the poor son of a drunkard, is too great a temptation for him to resist. Nucky convinces Gillian to let The Commodore help her, knowing full well, that by help, he means, tending to the man’s disgusting sexual desires. In that moment, whatever goodness had been present in Nucky’s heart, left him forever; especially when he takes her hand and promises Gillian that he will always look out for her.

BE PIC 9Years later, as he is walking on the boardwalk, the same boardwalk he once ruled over with an iron fist, and that made him wealthier than he could have ever dreamed, he begins to sense the past closing in on him. First is a billboard, which he looks up at; on it is a picture of King Neptune, advertising the parade. That is followed quickly by four drunken fraternity brothers, who stop directly in front of him; one of them begins reciting “The Spell Of The Yukon” which is a poem by Robert W. Service:

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

After the fraternity brothers take off, Nucky spots two men, whom he thinks are perhaps out to kill him. He turns around to escape death at their hands, only to come face to face with another who seeks revenge. As Nucky lays dying, shot three times by Jillian’s grandson, Tommy (Travis Tope) – to explain how and where he came from, would require an additional blog, unto itself – Nucky’s last thoughts are of Jillian. He reaches his hand out, dreaming in the throes of death, that the young Jillian, who he always promised to protect, is standing there in front of him. Why is that moment so prevalent in his dying thoughts? Does he realize, or has he always known the terrible mistake he made all those years earlier? In his confused state, while waiting for death to take hold of him, was his dying wish to change history, in the very spot that served as the catalyst for his life of crime? What are your thoughts and theories regarding the series finale of “Boardwalk Empire?” Please feel free to answer any of the questions I posed throughout the blog, or offer your own analysis. I very much welcome either.

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“The Lost Boys – No Sparkly Vampires Allowed”

The “Lost Boys,” which was released on January 31, 1987, would go on to win the 1988 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA. Directed by Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill), the film is a mixture of dark comedy and horror, and was based on a story co-written by Jan Fischer and James Jeremias. Fischer and Jeremias, who had first envisioned the movie being a much more child friendly film, at the insistence of Schumacher, worked on the screenplay with Jeffrey Boam, who radically helped to change the movie’s overall tone.

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The film’s 97 minute runtime, begins in the evening at an amusement park. There are four guys causing trouble on the boardwalk at the merry-go-round. A security guard, who already warned the four to stay off the boardwalk, drives his point home by using his club to try and intimidate the leader of the group; it is a mistake, he will not get to regret for very long. Later that night, after the park closes and the lights have been turned off, as the rotund, mustachioed rent-a-cop is walking toward his car, he is attacked. He is not held at gun point, nor does he have a knife put to his throat, no he is assaulted from something that descends from the sky. Although, as viewers, we are not privy to what ultimately happens to the man, we do hear his screams pierce the night air.

The next scene strongly contrasts with what just transpired. During a picturesque day, recently divorced mother, Lucy, played by Academy Award and Golden Globe winner, Dianne Wiest (Bullets over Broadway), is traveling in her car from Phoenix, Arizona, to move to Santa Carla, California. She is accompanied by her two sons: Michael, portrayed by Jason Patric (Narc), and Sam, acted by Corey Haim (License to Drive), as well as Sam’s Alaskan Malamute, Nanook. The town they have chosen to move to is where Lucy’s father, Primetime Emmy winner, Barnard Hughes (Lou Grant), makes his home. He is an old, marijuana smoking, hippie type, known throughout the film simply as Grandpa. Hughes provides a good deal of the comic relief in the film. Unbeknownst to the family, they have moved to a place that is also referred to by town locals as ‘the murder capital of the world.’ There do seem to be an inordinate number of missing person notices posted around town. Initially, however, Sam’s biggest problem, is that even though his grandfather receives the TV Guide in the mail, he doesn’t own a television.

The next evening, while the family is walking around on the boardwalk, Michael and Sam wander off on their own. It doesn’t take long before Michael spots a girl who he is absolutely taken with. He will later learn her name is Star, played by Emmy nominated actress, Jami Gertz (The Neighbors). Michael and Sam begin to follow her, and a little boy, named Laddie (Chance Michael Corbitt), who Star is watching after. Sam wants to know what is happening, since all they seem to be doing, is walking around aimlessly. Michael, tiring of Sam’s questions, and his hanging out with him in general, asks if there isn’t anything better he could be doing. As fate would have it, at just that moment, Sam spots a comic book shop. It turns out not to matter anyway, whether Sam tagged along or not because, whatever may or may not have happened between Michael and Star, doesn’t take place on that particular evening.

While Sam is walking around the comic shop, he is being closely watched by Edgar and Alan, also known as The Frog Brothers, portrayed by Corey Feldman (The Goonies) and Jamison Newlander (Lost Boys: The Thirst). After the brothers approach Sam, he begins to tell them that their comic books are arranged in the wrong order, due to a variety of reasons. Edgar hands Sam a comic titled “Vampires Everywhere,” to which he replies, “no thanks, I am not into horror comics.” Feldman informs Sam, that he will like the particular comic he is giving him, because it might one day save his life. The next day, Sam returns to the shop. This time, Feldman again hands him another vampire themed comic, titled “Destroy All Vampires.” Sam reiterates the fact that those types of comics just aren’t what he likes to read, to which Alan responds “think of it as a survival manual.” The Frog brothers also list their phone number on the back of the comic book, with the admonition to Sam, that he should pray that he never needs to use it.

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As for Lucy, the previous evening, while she was out looking for any kind of job she could secure, she runs across the polite, bow tie wearing, seemingly, kind hearted, Max, played by Emmy winner Edward Hermann (The Practice). He is the owner of the local video store, and is happy to help her find something to watch. After some small talk, it turns out all Lucy really wants is a job. He not only offers her a job at his store, but also asks her out for dinner, two propositions, that please Lucy to no end.

The next evening, while looking into getting his ear pierced, Michael’s dream girl talks to him, letting him know that the guy doing the piercing is charging rip-off prices. If he wants his ear pierced, she is willing to do it for him. Virtually seconds before she takes off with Michael on his motorcycle, the gang who caused trouble the previous evening at the merry-go-round, arrives on their own bikes. I don’t think it is a spoiler for anyone out there who is reading this, for me to mention, that this is no ordinary gang of deviant bikers, but instead, they are a clan of vampires. In the role of the group’s charismatic leader, David, is Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning, actor, Kiefer Sutherland. He is not alone, however. The small vampire cadre consists of three other members: Paul (Brooke McCarter); Dwayne (Billy Wirth); and Marko (Alex Winter), who people will no-doubt recognize as one half of the duo from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” and its sequel “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” Much to Michael’s disappointment, Star opts to get off of his motorcycle, and hop onto the back of David’s bike.

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Keifer Sutherland and Jami Gertz in the movie "The Lost Boys".For a guy who has the look, and gives off the vibe of a bad ass, David doesn’t get into a confrontation with Michael. Instead, he asks him, if he knows where Hudson’s Bluff is overlooking the point, to which Mike, sensing a macho showdown, admits that the bike he is riding can’t beat David’s motorcycle. Again, however, that is not what the leader of the gang is interested in. David makes it clear that he doesn’t have to beat Mike, he’s just got to keep up, which, throughout the wild ride they take, is easier said than done, and almost winds up costing Michael his life.

Michael is taken to the gang’s lair, which is the remnants of an old hotel that was buried during an earthquake. First David plays several hallucinogenic tricks on Michael, making him think that what he has offered him to eat is actually bugs, instead of Chinese food. At the conclusion of the parlor tricks, David gets down to business. He drinks from what appears to be a wine bottle, after doing so, he offers it to Michael, and asks him to drink from the bottle so he can become one of them. Star tells Michael that he doesn’t have to, because the contents of the bottle contain blood rather than wine. Michael proceeds to drink it anyway, as the gang members chant his name. Thinking he has only drank wine, in actuality, he has consumed blood, just as Star tried to warn him. By doing so, Michael has unknowingly begun his own initiation toward becoming a full fledged member of the undead. The final thing he must do before being allowed to become a vampire, is to take a life.

TLB PIC 5Later the next night, Michael begins to feel the need to feed, but food is not what he needs. Trying to drink milk, he spits it out, as if it has gone spoiled. Sam, meanwhile, who is taking a bath upstairs, almost becomes his first victim. Michael’s need for human blood is driving him toward doing the unthinkable. Fortunately for Sam, Nanook, senses that Michael is up to no good, and proceeds to attack him. In the process, he takes a nice size chunk out of Michael’s hand, which is soon spotted by Sam, who is completely bewildered by the situation. He wants to know why his dog would attack Michael? And seeing the blood, Sam is extra upset, because he thinks Michael just attacked Nanook, only to learn from Michael’s own admission, that the dog was protecting Sam from him.

Seconds later, Sam looks into the mirror, and sees that Michael’s reflection, while it can still be viewed, is very faded. It doesn’t take him long to put two and two together. He realizes, that Michael has been turned into a vampire. He places a call to the Frog Brothers, who claim to be experts on the creatures, and after they ask Sam a series of questions about Michael, tell Sam that he must kill his brother. That, however, is something, that Sam simply cannot do. The viewer will come to learn, that the only way Michael can return to a normal life, is if the head vampire, who created the clan, is killed.

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Trivia buffs take note: During filming, Kiefer Sutherland broke his arm while riding a motorcycle, so that is the reason he wears black gloves throughout the entire movie; it was the only way he could hide his cast. “The Lost Boys” marked the first of many times that Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, would appear in movies together. Emmy Award winner John Carradine (Stagecoach) and Emmy nominee Keenan Wynn (Once Upon a Time in the West) were both considered for the role of the grandfather before it was eventually given to Hughes. Carradine had to pass on the part because he was too ill at the time, and Wynn, sadly, died right before production on the movie began. While the film is arguably one of Joel Schumacher’s most well known and beloved, he was originally never intended to direct the film. Richard Donner (Superman II), who wound up becoming an executive producer on the film, was originally planning to direct the movie, but due to scheduling conflicts and contractual obligations, was forced to begin shooting the first of the “Lethal Weapon” films. Additionally, Schumacher wasn’t even the second choice to helm the project. Mary Lambert (Urban Legends: Bloody Mary) was brought in to direct the film, once Donner was no longer available to do so, but due to creative differences, she decided the film wasn’t for her; this opened up the door for Schumacher.

TLB PIC 7Who is the head vampire that needs to be destroyed? If he can’t be killed, will the Frog Brothers wind up killing Michael against Sam’s wishes? Will Sam, perhaps, be turned into a member of the undead? What becomes of David and the other members of the vampire clan? Are they killed, or do they wind up not only turning Michael into one of their own, but continuing on with their murderous ways? All questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion. Credit must be given to Schumacher, for not only directing a highly entertaining film, but for his decision to bring Jeffrey Boam on board, to give the script a major re-write. If the movie had been filmed as it was originally intended, I think it would have turned out to be a box office dud, that no one would still be talking about years later. The film features a catchy soundtrack, the cast as a whole puts its all into their roles, and credit must be given to the excellent cinematography of Academy Award nominee, Michael Chapman (The Fugitive), whose filming style, served to enhance scenes, that might have come across as just mediocre without someone of his talents.

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“A Triple Does of Tim Curry In Tales From The Crypt”

The day of the door-to-door salesman has virtually, all but vanished as a profession. A once viable occupation for someone who had either charismatic looks, or the gift of gab, has been replaced by computers and telephones. I can, however, see a day in a few short years, where telephones also become an obsolete selling tool. More and more people, I speak to, are adding their names to ‘do not call lists.’ In spite of being on the ‘do not call list,’ I do get a number of calls from companies trying to sell me things, however, the majority of the calls I receive, where I don’t recognize a number, or a person’s name that has already been programmed into my phone doesn’t come up on the screen, turn out to be political robo-calls. The sort of heartwarming messages, that espouse why voting for or against a particular Democrat or Republican, to represent the state of Florida, where I live, could spell certain doom for life as I know it. In the interest of full disclosure, I do, however, occasionally, get calls from companies I already do business with, using scripted pitches, trying to sell me additional or upgraded features, products or services. The caller usually advises me that this is a limited time offer that I must take advantage of immediately.

When I was in middle school and high school, I didn’t pay attention to when shows that I watched on television had their season premieres, nor did I get all worked up over their season finales. What I cared about, as I moved from my ‘tween years’ into my teenage years, was that a new episode of a show I liked was going to be on that evening. These days, I certainly do pay attention to that sort of information, but the shows I like on television, just like any given number of movies, past and present, have become, in the intervening years, a passion of mine. Had I known that the “Tales From the Crypt” episode “Death of Some Salesman,” which premiered on October 2, 1993, was the catalyst that started off season five of the series, I would have waxed poetic about how entertaining I thought it was, to my friends at school the next day.

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The episode was directed by Gilbert Adler (Bordello of Blood), and co-written by Adler along with A. L. Katz (The Outer Limits). The twenty-five minute show centers around Judd Campbell, a con-man portrayed by Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere). He is the type of individual who passes himself off as a salesman with a heart of gold, even though the antithesis is true. The episode opens with Campbell in bed with his latest conquest, Stella, a local yokel (Kathe Weeks), who he promised the evening before to take away from the one horse town she lives in. Like most of what comes out of Judd’s mouth, it is, of course, a deal he never intended to honor.

After he leaves, his first trip is to visit a Mrs. Jones. Campbell got her name while searching the newspaper’s obituaries, earlier that morning. Mrs. Jones, played by Yvonne De Carlo, of “The Munsters” fame, is neither expecting Judd Campbell, nor the news of the cemetery plot, or the ten thousand dollar death benefits payout, which Mr. Jones had apparently begun to arrange for him and his wife the week before his passing. Begley informs Mrs. Jones that because the fees owed his company were not paid in full, the company cannot honor the contract, and informs her that his office will offer her a refund of the two hundred and fifty dollars that Mr. Jones had already paid his company. Mrs. Jones is distraught, as her husband left her with virtually nothing. The fact that had he lived long enough to pay the remaining two hundred and fifty dollars, the policy, would have not only covered the funeral expenses, but would have provided her a check, in the amount of ten thousand dollars. She asks Campbell if he is willing to bend the law. At first, acting as if he must uphold the law, and do what is morally right, even though he feels bad for the widow, (yeah right) Judd acts very reluctant to even entertain such a suggestion. Without his having to say a word, it is Mrs. Jones who comes up with the idea, that perhaps, her husband had already put the money in the mail to Mr. Campbell. Still hesitant, but knowing he has hooked his victim, Judd tells Mrs. Jones he would be willing to go along with the farce, if she gave him the remaining two-hundred and fifty dollars that was owed on the policy, right then and there, in cash. She does so. Once inside his car, he places the cash inside an envelope that contains money from other vulnerable people he has taken advantage of.

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The odd ball Bracket family, consists of three members: Ma, Pa, and their daughter Winona. All three characters are played by the talented, Emmy winner Tim Curry (Clue), who showcases his versatility by completely immersing himself into the parts. For me, it was Curry’s excellent portrayal of all three characters that made this episode so unusual and memorable. Judd, makes the unfortunate error of arriving at their home, which shares a similar address with where he had originally intended to go. After learning of his error, he begins to leave, until Ma Bracket opens the front door to the house, to inquire if he is a salesman. Even though, she cannot see his facial expression, at the question having been posed to him, we as viewers, can tell that he is pleased at the prospect of perhaps earning even more money that day. (As an aside: Eddie Murphy was first approached about playing the roles of the Brackets, but he turned down the parts).

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Once inside the Bracket’s home, Campbell goes into his usual sales pitch. This time, however, he’s not dealing with an emotionally distraught widow. Instead, he has to convince, the cantankerous, Pa Bracket, that purchasing, plots at the fictitious cemetery, as well as the generous death benefits package, is worth five hundred dollars. Unlike most of the easy prey, whose recent losses effect clear minded thinking, which Campbell takes advantage of, Pa Bracket, is not about to pay any amount of money without seeing what he’s buying first. Of course, Judd can’t allow that to happen. Quickly thinking about a way to exit the situation, Judd actually sweetens the deal for the Brackets. Instead of just a check issued for $10,000, if they agree to pay $750 dollars cash, he will make sure that the amount of the check will come to $20,000. The deal is one that even the guarded, Pa Bracket can’t seem to pass up.

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Pa leaves to go downstairs to the basement where, he nonchalantly lets Judd know, is where he keeps his money. While waiting for his return, Ma Bracket asks Judd if he would like a cup of coffee, to which he replies, yes. After she leaves the room, and he takes a few sips, the coffee is way too cold for his liking, so he walks over to the microwave to warm it up, however, there is just one problem with that. Inside of the microwave, is a man’s, head. A horrified Judd, who begins to scream and stumble, next comes across another man on the floor, who has the suction end of a vacuum cleaner shoved into his mouth. While attempting, unsuccessfully, to flee the house, Pa Bracket, knocks Campbell unconscious.

Upon waking up, he finds himself tied up, and also in handcuffs. Pa and Ma Bracket, at that point, express their intense dislike for sales people, who, as it turns out, are the only sort of individuals who come to their residence anymore. Pa Bracket takes things a step further, and briefly talks about the salesman that sold him a color television that didn’t work at all until he fixed it. For dramatic effect, he pulls back the doors covering the screen, to reveal the body of the salesmen stuffed inside the television.

All hope seems to be lost for Judd Campbell and his conniving ways, until Ma Bracket suggests something. She puts forth an idea regarding her daughter, Winona, which Pa Bracket quickly dismisses. In the end, however, he acquiesces. If Winona wants to keep Judd Campbell as her companion, and the feeling is mutual, he will be allowed to live. Not an easy task, even for a skilled con-artist such as Campbell. Winona is a snorting, un-hygienic, extraordinarily unattractive woman, for whom he needs to, in a very short amount of time, prove his love, not only with the spoken word, which he excels at, but physically as well.

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Will Judd Campbell be able to convince Winona that he loves her? Even if he does, will he be able to persuade Pa Bracket to spare his life? If Judd successfully convinces both that his intentions are genuine, will he be able to think up a plan, to make his escape from the house of horrors that he currently finds himself imprisoned in? Will he dare stop off in the basement and search for all of the money the Bracket’s have stolen from the previous salesmen? Will he do the smart thing and allow his greed not to get in the way for a change, and just leave? All of those questions will be answered at the conclusion of the competently acted, well paced, episode that features excellent makeup work and an interesting story to ponder long after the final credits role.

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