“Frankenstein – The Blueprint for the Modern Day Silent Stalker”

This month, as a countdown to Halloween, blogs from Robbins Realm will feature reviews of horror or supernatural films and television shows. In addition, there will be: one piece pertaining to a few short stories of a famous novelist; one television show with a Halloween theme, that is fun for the whole family; as well as one blog that will spotlight an individual who has made a significant impact in the horror genre. This will mark the third annual October that I am doing this.

One of the most indelible images in the annals of horror film cinema is the Frankenstein monster. The creature was created by English author Mary Shelly, in her gothic novel of the same name, that was first published in London in 1818. At the time, Shelly’s book was published anonymously; it wasn’t until the 1823 edition, published in France, that she received credit for her work. While this blog focuses in on director James Whale’s (The Invisible Man) film, that premiered on November 21, 1931, his was not the first time the story had been brought to the screen. A sixteen minute silent movie, directed by J. Searle Dawley, was produced for the Edison Company in 1910. Additionally, there was a feature length, 1915 silent film “Life Without a Soul” directed by Joseph W. Smiley, produced by the Ocean Film Corporation, all existing prints of which have unfortunately been lost.

Taking the iconic creature from page to screen was two time Academy Award nominee, John L. Balderston (The Bride of Frankenstein). The ideas for what was included in the film can be attributed to two different sources: Mary Shelly’s novel, and a stage play written by Peggy Webling. Contributions to the screenplay were also made by Garrett Fort (The Mark of Zorro), Francis Edward Faragoh (Little Caesar), Richard Schayer (The Cameraman), and although they did not receive credit, Robert Florey & John Russell. Upon its release, the seventy minute film was a critical and commercial success. Made for an estimated budget of just over two-hundred and ninety thousand dollars, the movie would go on to gross approximately twelve million dollars.

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Before the credits even begin, there is a prologue delivered by actor Edward Van Sloan (Dracula), who portrays the character of Doctor Waldman in the film. The remarks are a warning to the audience as to the nature of the movie they are about to see:

“How do you do? Mr. Carl Laemmle feels it would be a little unkind to present this picture without just a word of friendly warning. We’re about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation: life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now is your chance to, uh… Well, we’ve warned you.”

After the friendly warning, and the credits, credits that don’t include the identity of the actor playing the monster, the first scene takes place in a graveyard, during a funeral. Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), a brilliant scientist, and Fritz (Dwight Frye), his hunchbacked, dimwitted assistant, are hidden out of sight, watching. They are there to steal the corpse once the mourners leave. After the grave digger has performed his task of burying the body, Frankenstein and Fritz dig the coffin back up, and haul it away on a cart. While on their way back to Frankenstein’s laboratory, they come upon a man, who has been put to death by hanging. Fritz cuts the body down, but once it hits the ground, Frankenstein instructs him to leave it, because the neck is broken, thereby causing the brain he wants from the body, to be no good.

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Frankenstein needs a brain as the final piece for the experiment he is conducting. He sends Fritz to his former school, Goldstadt Medical, to steal one. Fritz waits, as Dr. Waldman finishes delivering a lecture on the differences between a normal human brain and that of a criminal. Waldman is teaching his students about the distinctions between the frontal lobes of each of the brains. Once class is dismissed, Fritz opens a window and climbs into the room. He initially picks up the normal brain, but hearing a noise which frightens him, he drops it on the ground. Instead of just leaving, he opts to take the abnormal brain back to Dr. Frankenstein, failing to tell his employer what happened.

Henry Frankenstein’s fiancée Elizabeth (Mae Clarke) is worried for his well being. She hasn’t heard from him in months, and after receiving a letter from him, she can’t decipher what he is trying to convey to her. She only knows that he has isolated himself from her, and with the exception of Fritz, from everyone else as well. These are concerns which she relays to Victor (John Boles), Henry’s best friend. Victor informs Elizabeth that he did have a chance encounter with Henry, three weeks earlier, when he spotted his friend walking alone in the woods. The conversation was brief, basically Frankenstein telling Victor that no one was permitted to interrupt his work. The two set out, at Elizabeth’s insistence, to see Dr. Waldman, Henry’s professor and someone who he greatly admires. They hope he can provide them with the answers as to what, exactly, is going on with Henry. During this time, Victor lets it slip that he might not be such a good friend to Henry after all, as he makes his feelings of love known to Elizabeth.

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Doctor Waldman is disturbed by the news about Henry. He speaks to the fact that Frankenstein is an extraordinarily intelligent man, but at the same time, an erratic person. The experiments he conducted pertaining to chemical galvanism and electro-biology, while at the medical school, had reached dangerous proportions. The young doctor’s desire to bring people back from the dead, and his uncaring attitude as to how the corpses were obtained for those purposes, was something the school could not tolerate. Waldman is not aware of what Henry is currently working on, until Elizabeth informs him of the little that she knows. She implores him to accompany her and Victor to Frankenstein’s laboratory.

Once there they are turned away by Fritz and Henry. If not for Elizabeth begging Frankenstein to give them shelter, from a raging storm that is taking place, he wouldn’t have let them in. Once inside, he lets Elizabeth, Victor, and Dr. Waldman know they must leave him alone while he finishes his work. Victor calls him crazy, which Frankenstein takes as an affront to the experiment he is doing. Henry escorts the unwelcomed guests up to his laboratory, and locks the door. On an operating table, under a sheet, lays a lifeless corpse, comprised of stolen body parts from different cadavers, that Frankenstein has stitched together. He explains to his former professor, how he took the knowledge Waldman imparted to him, and progressed beyond it. Henry permits Dr. Waldman to inspect the body before the table is lifted into the air on pulleys, and through an opening in the roof. Frankenstein is counting on the electrodes in the neck of the creature being struck enough times by lightning, in order to bring his creation to life. After the table is lowered back down, there is no sign of Frankenstein’s experiment having succeeded, until the creature’s right hand moves, indicating that it is stirring to life.

Frankenstein (1931)

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Henry Frankenstein: Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE!

Victor Moritz: Henry – In the name of God!

Henry Frankenstein: Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!

(As an aside, the AFI (American Film Institute) voted the “It’s alive” line number forty-nine, out of the one hundred top movie quotes of all time. Additionally, Frankenstein was the first film to use the castle thunder sound effect).

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Credit must definitely be given to two individuals, without whom this film would have never reached the heights that it has. The first is actor Boris Karloff (The Mummy), who while never uttering a single line of dialogue, breathed multi-faceted life into the creature. Karloff’s monster isn’t just a brute who murders people; in each instance that the creature acts aggressively, he is doing so out of self-preservation, self defense, or because he simply doesn’t have the capacity to think as a rational human being. Karloff wore a suit that was too small for him, in order to make his appearance seem larger. The boots that he used during filming, weighed a combined twenty-six pounds, and aided Karloff in terms of the lurching way the creature walks. The daily makeup sessions he endured, which lasted upwards of four hours, was a testament to his professionalism, as was the fact that he allowed dental work he had done to be removed, so it would give his face a more gaunt appearance. Secondly, gifted, makeup artist, Jack Pierce (The Wolf Man), who worked from sketches drawn by James Whale, was able to create the exact look the director wanted for the monster. A lesser talent might have made Karloff’s appearance come across as cartoonish or cheesy, but in Pierce’s capable hands, the monster’s image became iconic.

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It is doubtful that anyone, but the youngest of children, will be scared while watching “Frankenstein.” The film, however, is extraordinarily important because of its historical context within the genre of horror. Every silent stalker, that is popular in modern day film, whether it be Michael Myers from the “Halloween” franchise or Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” movies, owe a debt to Shelly, Karloff, Pierce, and Whale, for creating the blueprint for their existence.

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“The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane”

Teenager, Rynn Jacobs is portrayed by two time Best Actress Oscar winner, Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs). Rynn is someone who enjoys reading her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, listening to classical music, such as Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and studying Hebrew, but she is also hiding a secret from the world, and it is constantly teetering on the brink of being discovered. The secret she is guarding forces the intelligent and resourceful Rynn to engage in evasion while dealing with people, and to go to any lengths necessary in order to protect herself. “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” was directed by Nicolas Gessner (Spaceship Earth). Written for the screen by Laird Koenig, based on his novel of the same name, it is a mixture of the genres of drama, mystery, and thriller. This ninety one minute film from 1976 is the type that, from the start, will keep viewers guessing as to the truth regarding Rynn’s living situation. She doesn’t attend school; her father, a well known poet, is a man who never seems to have time to meet with anyone that comes to the house; and the whereabouts of the girl’s mother are revealed further along in the movie.

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The film opens up with a brief scene of Rynn walking on the beach, immediately followed by her standing in the kitchen of her home, in front of a cake decorated with candles. Making her way from the kitchen into the living room, she pauses in front of a mirror while holding the cake, smiles, and wishes herself a happy birthday. It is a self-celebrated event that is interrupted by Frank Hallet, played by Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Martin Sheen (The American President). He was out with his children, and they hadn’t arrived at the house yet, because Rynn’s birthday also coincides with Halloween. While talking with Rynn, Sheen’s character gives off a creepy vibe in the manner in which he speaks and he also crosses the line when he touches her inappropriately. It is later revealed that Frank Hallet has a history of wrongful behavior when it comes to how he acts with children, and he will also demonstrate his character’s sadistic side during the film. Surprisingly, local law enforcement, in the small New England town where the movie is set, are fully aware of Hallet’s proclivities, but are seemingly powerless to do anything in order to safeguard those whom he seeks to exploit. Koenig seems to want to make a point of this issue by showcasing how a man, such as Frank, just because he is an adult, can come and go as he pleases, even under a dark cloud of suspicion, while Rynn due to nothing more than her age, has to go out of her way to live on the periphery of life in order to maintain her anonymity. Calling too much attention to herself before she turns eighteen will threaten to destroy the lifestyle she and her father feel she is meant to live.

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The next morning, the landlady, Mrs. Hallet (Alexis Smith), Frank’s mother, arrives at the house and enters without permission. She is a disrespectful, pushy person, who has stopped by to pick up preserve jars she had loaned to the previous tenant, as well as speak to Rynn’s father. While inside the house she takes to not only re-arranging the furniture, but displays an instant dislike for Rynn. Mrs. Hallet begins to verbally antagonize Rynn after she tells the woman not to go in the cellar where the jars are being stored, but to come back later to pick them up. Mrs. Hallet doesn’t take kindly to being told what to do by a child. She threatens to revoke the lease on the house, even though it has been paid in advance for three years, as well as alert the school board, of which she is a member, that Rynn is not attending school. Rynn gets her to leave when she informs Mrs. Hallet that her son had been to the house last evening, and perhaps he shouldn’t be alone with a young girl whose father isn’t home. Mrs. Hallet leaves without the jars, but she will be back in due time.

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When she returns, at first she spins a story about how the school board was very interested in hearing about Rynn’s situation. Rynn, however, knows that she is lying because she verified with the county office when school board meetings take place. When Rynn informs Hallet that she can take her jars and Hallet sees that there are no tops on the jars, she enters the cellar via a trap door which is in the floor underneath the dining room table. After taking a few steps, she sees something that scares her and she screams. While attempting to leave, she lets go of the trap door, which closes and hits her in the head and the force of it kills her.

Enlisting the help of a stranger, with whom Rynn has a chance meeting, fellow teenager, Mario (Scott Jacoby), who walks with a limp and performs magic shows to earn money; he helps Rynn dispose of Mrs. Hallet’s car at the train station. The two will grow exceptionally close, and she will share with him all of what has transpired in her life. The only adult that Rynn has a liking for is, ironically, Mario’s uncle, Mr. Migliorti (Mort Shuman), who happens to be a police officer. He comes across as a well intentioned, nice guy, but even he starts to grow suspicious at the continued absence of Rynn’s father. He tries to speak with the man on several occasions, and is growing a bit tired of Rynn’s excuses of her father always being away on business in New York, working in his study, or not feeling well and in bed.

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Trivia buffs take note: “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” was the first time Jodie Foster ever received top billing in a film. On January 14, 1978 at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, Jodie Foster won the Saturn Award for best actress for her role as Rynn, and the film won the same award for best horror film. Director Nicolas Gessner, writer Laird Koenig and actress Alexis Smith were nominated, but lost out to George Lucas for “Star Wars” and Steven Spielberg for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” who tied for best director, to Lucas for his writing on “Star Wars,” and to Susan Tyrrell for “Bad.” There is a very brief nude scene of Foster’s character stripping out of her clothes from a back profile point-of-view and getting into bed with Mario; Foster refused to appear naked in the film – her sister Connie was used as her body double for the shot. Mort Shuman, who plays officer Migliorti, was part of a successful song writing team along with Doc Pomus. They wrote chart topping hits such as “Teenager in Love,” and “This Magic Moment,” among other famous songs. 1976 was a busy year professionally for Foster, who appeared in a total of five films. The other movies were Martin Scorsese’s iconic “Taxi Driver,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Echoes of a Summer,” and the Disney movie “Freaky Friday.”

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What is the real truth about Rynn’s father never being around? Where is her mother? Why isn’t she taking a more active role in her teenage daughter’s life? Where will the police investigation of Mrs. Hallet’s disappearance lead to? Will Frank Hallet ever get to enact his disgusting fantasies regarding Rynn? All of those question and more will be answered if you view the movie.  The film is not fast paced, but slowly builds to its climax. It is almost completely devoid of any kind of blood and gore, and is the sort of movie which provokes questions in the viewer both while watching and after it is over. I have watched the film a half dozen times over the years, and each time, I always pause to imagine what might have happened to Rynn, after the final shot of the film. If you’ve seen the movie, or get a chance to see it, I would love to hear your thoughts regarding not only what might have happened to Rynn, but on the movie as well.

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“Road Games”

While watching director, Steven Spielberg’s, 1971 film, “Duel,” I began thinking of another film that involved a truck driver and the vastness of the open highway, “Road Games.” Directed by Richard Franklin, (Hotel Sorrento) the engaging, stylish, part drama and part thriller movie was released on June 26, 1981, in Australia. Written for the screen by Everett De Roche, (Storm Warning) based on an original story that he co-wrote with the director, the 101 minute film has very often been compared to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”

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While working on another project together, the director gave De Roche a copy of the screenplay for the Hitchcock film. After reading the script, De Roche made the suggestion to the director that the scenario contained within “Rear Window,” would make for a terrifically similar suspense film on the open roads of the Australian outback. While the film is certainly a derivative of the 1954 classic, it is not in any way a blatant rip-off, and does veer off into other cinematic territory.

Actor Stacy Keach (The New Mike Hammer) gives a very effective performance playing Quid, an American working as a truck driver, transporting meat to different locations in Australia. Along for the ride, keeping him company is his dingo, Boswell. Quid talks to himself a great deal and comments on his fellow travelers, usually in a humorous manner, as a way to help pass the time. As an aside, the actor had to learn how to drive a 16-gear semi truck for the role.

Stopping off at a hotel to get some rest, Quid is shut out, thanks to a man driving a green van who manages to get the last vacant room. The man is accompanied by a young female hitchhiker that Quid had seen earlier, but had not stopped to pick up. Instead of driving further that evening, since, as we learn from a conversation he has on his CB radio with his dispatch operator, he has already been up for two days straight, Quid stays parked outside the hotel and sleeps inside the cab of the truck. He wakes at 5:00A.M., and lets out his dingo, who wanders over to some garbage bags and starts pawing at one in particular. At the same time, Quid spots the man from the green van watching the garbage bags from his hotel window, as the garbage truck makes its way down the street. Quid becomes instantaneously suspicious of the individual, and will grow even more so, thanks to reports on the news about the murders of several young women. The killer is still on the loose. Quid’s feelings will be cemented a short time later, when he spots the guy in the desert and sees him digging a hole. As soon as the man spots Quid watching him with his binoculars, he grabs whatever he was going to bury, gets in his van, and speeds off in the other direction. Portrayed by Grant Page, (Mad Max) the man, who Quid refers to as ‘Smith or Jones,’ and his green van, will play a recurring role in the remainder of the film’s runtime.

Along the way, Quid picks up Jamie Lee Curtis’s (Terror Train) character of Pamela Rushworth. He nicknames the young woman ‘Hitch.’ While the free-spirited Pamela is a likable character, the duration of her screen time is brief. During the time that she does appear, a relationship starts to form between her and Quid. No sooner does Quid start to have feelings for ‘Hitch’, it appears that she has been abducted by ‘Smith or Jones.’ Initially, he is panicked at the prospect of what the killer might do to her, but starts to think, based on one visual and one bit of audio, that perhaps Pamela is interested in being with the man in the green van. Toward the conclusion of the film, Quid will know for sure whether ‘Hitch’ has been a willing or unwilling passenger of the man in the green van. Speaking of the ending, it is a tension filled one, which I won’t ruin for you. In addition to Curtis, actress Marian Edward, (The Wild Duck) provides a bit of comic relief, and then some, as Madeline ‘Frita’ Day. Credit must also be given to the excellent work done by cinematographer Vincent Monton (Thirst). He brings to life the Australian landscape by capturing both the desert vistas and the seemingly unending enormity of the continent.

The budget for the film was approximately 1.8 million dollars, which at the time made history for being the most expensive Australian film ever produced. The director and writer opted for restraint with this movie. I appreciated the creatively clever way the story was presented, as well as the wonderful suspense the director utilized, as opposed to excessive bloody imagery, gratuitous violence and shock value scenes. Franklin implies a great deal, but leaves many things to the viewer’s imagination as to what is not being shown on screen, and that can very often make for a rewarding film watching experience. In this blogger’s opinion, audiences who originally saw it in the theaters, and those who have watched it at home were, and are, the better for it.

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“Lizzie Borden Took An Ax”

Lizzie Borden had an axe
She gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

Well, not exactly. In total, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother, Andrew and Abby Borden, were struck a combined thirty times. The double murder took place on August 4, 1892, in the Borden’s home, in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew was found on the couch in the sitting room, and Abby’s body was discovered on the floor of the upstairs master bedroom. According to the historical records of the coroner, each of the Bordens was dead after being struck with the first blow. The rhyme, while morbidly catchy, is also, historically inaccurate when it comes to the murder weapon. The Bordens, were killed with a hatchet, not an axe. Lizzie and the housekeeper were the only people present when the bodies were discovered. That, and the fact that she had a poor relationship with her stepmother, was what led the authorities, shortly after the murders, to make her the prime suspect. The trial which followed, due to the gruesome nature of the crimes that had been committed, attracted national attention.

The television movie “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax” premiered on Lifetime Movie Channel on January 25, 2014. The ninety-one minute film was directed by Nick Gomez, who has primarily worked in television and cable on shows such as “Dexter” and “True Blood,” among many other series. Stephen Kay (General Hospital) wrote the screenplay, which contains a number of omitted historical facts, which is fine. The movie is meant to be viewed as a guilty pleasure, and not a period piece that has to strictly adhere to historical accuracy. Comprised of the genres of crime, drama, mystery and thriller, the movie also features a modern soundtrack.

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Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow) portrays Sunday school teacher, turned infamous alleged killer, Lizzie Borden. Ricci presents her character to the viewer as a manipulative and calculating person who likes getting her way. Her polite mannerisms, doe eyed looks, and smiles, mask the vile veneer of her true nature. Andrew Borden (Stephen McHattie) is a wealthy, but frugal man, who makes his family eat stew that has already gone bad, rather than spend the money on fresh food. The film hints that his frugality might not be the worst of his character traits, suggesting that a relationship of incest might have existed between Andrew and Lizzie. Playing Emma Borden is Clea Du Vall (Argo), Lizzie’s older sister, who remains fiercely loyal to her sibling, but at the same time, is conflicted as to her thoughts regarding what truly happened to her father and Abby (Sara Botsford). Billy Campbell (The Killing) takes the role of Andrew Jennings, Lizzie’s lawyer, who is steadfast in his belief that it is inconceivable that a woman could have committed the brutal murders. Prolific character actor Gregg Henry (The Following), who does an excellent job portraying the prosecuting attorney Hosea Knowlton, of course, holds the opposite view. (As an aside, Lizzie Borden had more than just Andrew Jennings representing her at trial. In fact, the lead defense attorney, was the former Governor of Massachusetts, George Robinson, who as it turned out, had appointed to the bench, Justice Justin Dewey, one of the three men who sat in judgment on Lizzie’s case.)

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After her parents’ funeral Lizzie is questioned by the prosecuting attorney. At one point, he asks her to bring him a dress that she wore on the day of the murder. The dress is of particular importance, because the original investigating officer, Marshall Hilliard (Shawn Doyle), noticed a small spot on the bottom of the dress that might or might not have been blood. Agreeing to bring the dress in question, she goes outside in the middle of the night, and burns it in the backyard of the house. Afterwards, Lizzie is subsequently placed under arrest, and detained in a women’s prison until her trial. (As an aside, again, as with her legal representation, among numerous other aspects of the case, the dress was actually burned inside the Borden home in the kitchen stove, and Lizzie was not wearing it when the police arrived, she had already changed her clothing.)

The second half of the film primarily concerns itself with Lizzie’s trial and the aftermath. Even though I knew that the jury would find Lizzie not guilty, which I don’t think is a spoiler to anyone who is reading this, I was still entertained. I liked certain stylistic choices Gomez utilized in presenting the story to the viewer, both the murders of the Bordens, which were shown via flashback, and the trial itself. The real Lizzie Borden, even though becoming a wealthy woman after she and Emma inherited their father’s estate, opted to spend the remainder of her life in Fall River. The sisters purchased a new home, where they lived together for twelve years before they had a falling out, for reasons that have never been made known.

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Was Lizzie Borden guilty of murder? If she was, why did she commit the crime? Did she want her father’s money, afraid that if he died, his estate would go to Abby? Why did she opt to stay in her home town, where many of the residents held the view that she had gotten away with murder? What was the reason she and Emma had a falling out and never spoke again? Did Emma perhaps learn the truth of what really took place, as the movie speculates she did. The film does not provide the answers to any of those questions, but does give the viewer some entertaining scenarios as to what might have happened.
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“The Imposter”

On June 13, 1994, thirteen year old Nicolas Barclay was handed a few dollars by his mother, Beverly, to buy dinner for himself later that evening. Afterwards, he left his San Antonio, Texas home to go play basketball with his friends. Several hours later, Nicholas called his house asking for a ride. His older brother Jason answered, but refused to wake their mother, who worked nights, and was getting a couple hours of sleep before her shift began. Jason told Nicholas, who was a few miles away from home, that he would have to walk. That was the last time any of his family members heard from him, until three years and four months after his disappearance, or was it?

On the rainy evening of October 7, 1997, in Linares, Spain, the police receive a phone call from a man who claims to be a tourist. He tells the officer on the phone, that he and his wife, have come across someone who appears to be a teenager. The teen is very scared, and has no identification. A few minutes later, the police arrive, and after some coaxing, they get the teen out of the phone booth he is sitting in. He acts frightened, but eventually, agrees to go with the responding officer. The teenager is in actuality Frédéric Bourdin, a twenty-three year old man, a manipulator and con-artist of French-Algerian descent.

Those two incidents set up the remainder of the compelling and fascinating documentary “The Imposter.” The critically acclaimed film premiered on January 23, 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it would be nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary. The director, Bart Layton, would go on to win the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. The ninety-nine minute film is told through a series of interviews, dramatic re-enactments, and home video footage, which slowly pieces everything together for the viewer.

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The real life Bourdin, who speaks throughout the documentary, admits at the start, that he always wanted to be someone else, someone who was accepted. He knew he had to convince the police that they were dealing with a teenager, and not a man his age. Once he is at the police station, they begin asking him routine questions: What is his name? Where does he live? Frédéric purposely doesn’t speak much, because he knows that by not answering, he will be taken to a children’s home, which is exactly what he wants.

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The people at the home treat him in a manner which makes him feel accepted. They let Bourdin know, however, that if he doesn’t identify himself, that they are going to have no choice, but to fingerprint him, as well as take his picture. Fearing prison, he concocts a plan. He tells the social workers that he is an American teenager who ran away from home, and was subsequently abducted. He informs the staff that he is willing to contact his family, but he wants to be the one to do it. Because of the time difference between America and Spain, he asks to be left alone in the records office overnight. Unbelievably, the workers at the home, comply with his request, giving Bourdin access to all sorts of information, that he can use to further aide in his fabrication.

He begins by making a series of phone calls to major metropolitan police stations in America. He feels confident that on the phone, he can convince anyone of anything he wants to. He informs whoever he speaks to, at the various stations, that he has an American kid who has been missing for a few years, but that he doesn’t know who the teen is. The response he receives, is that sadly, because there are such a large number of missing children, they can’t help him without more specific information. One of the people he speaks to at one of the stations gives him the phone number for the Center For Missing and Exploited Children, in Arlington, Virginia. He places a call to the center, repeating the same story. Out of all the missing children, you may be asking yourself, how did he come across the name Nicholas Barclay? The woman on the phone at the center, actually gave it to him. Furthermore, she sends him a fax of a black and white photo of Nicholas. After receiving the fax, Bourdin calls the woman back, and tells her that it is indeed Nicholas, who has been found.

Beverly receives a phone call indicating that her son has been located in Spain. She calls Nicholas’s sister, Carey, who is ecstatic about the news. Carey, in turn, places a phone call to the children’s home. Little does she know she is talking to Bourdin, who pretends to be in a room with Nicholas. He lets her know in a reassuring manner, that her brother is safe now, but that he doesn’t remember much. Apparently, he had been abducted, and suffered abuse at the hands of his kidnappers, who were part of a sex slave ring. Carey thinks she is letting Nicholas, who has refused to come to the phone, know that she loves him and that she is coming to get him. All Bourdin did was hold out the receiver to the empty room. On October, 14th, she will board a plane for Spain.

Entering the documentary is FBI Special Agent Nancy B. Fisher. She informs Carey, that once Nicholas is back on American soil, she will need to conduct an interview with him immediately, to find out exactly what happened. Fisher lets the viewer know, that usually when a child has been missing for such a long length of time, they are most likely dead, or will never be found. Furthermore, she says to find a child in a foreign country, after all that time has passed, is extremely rare. Fisher sends a fax to the United States Embassy in Madrid, Spain, which contains Nicholas’s physical description, which includes three small tattoos, as well as two color photographs. The information is sent to the children’s home. When Bourdin looks at the pictures, he figures the game is up, because he looks absolutely nothing like the missing boy. Nicholas has blonde hair and blue eyes, he is dark haired with brown eyes, and although he speaks English, he speaks it with an accent.

Having already tried to run away, and having been caught a short while later, Bourdin is desperate. He figures when Carey gets there and takes one look at him, that he will be carted off to prison. He does everything he can to make himself look more like the missing Barclay child. He dyes his hair blonde, gets a girl at the children’s home, who does tattoos, to draw the same three Tattoos Nicholas has, onto his body, and tries to dress in clothing more befitting of a teenager.

Incredibly, when Carey arrives, even though she notices differences about her brother, she states emphatically to the authorities that Bourdin is Nicholas. There is still one problem facing Frédéric, the judge in the case, who has to be convinced he is the missing Barclay child, is not convinced. She insists on interviewing Carey and Nicholas separately. Bourdin’s final test, is to identify people in five photographs, he gets the first four correct, and even though he has the wrong answer for the fifth one, by that time, he has already persuaded the judge that he is Nicholas. Little did the judge know, that only a short time prior to the interview, while visiting with Nicholas, Carey had shown him all of the same pictures, and had identified the people in each of them. After the interview is concluded, Bourdin has a passport photo taken, and is documented as an American citizen. The next day, he and Carey fly to Texas. The combination of Special Agent Fisher’s strong suspicions that something is not right, and the actions she takes, combined with the questions being asked, and investigation conducted, by a private investigator, Charlie Parker, make this already interesting documentary, even more captivating. (As an aside, Bourdin is the only person in American history to have assumed the identity of a missing child.)

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A viewer doesn’t need to ask how Bourdin got away with his crime. He offers up every detail of how he managed to keep his deception going for as long as he could. Some questions that a viewer might have at the conclusion of the film, are as follows: Why might Nicholas’s family be so eager to accept a person into their home, who obviously wasn’t their son and sibling? Had the grief of Nicholas’s disappearance caused them such an overwhelming amount of anguish, that no matter who Carey met in Spain, she would have said it was her brother? Do some of the family members perhaps have ulterior motives for being so accepting of the stranger? If so, why, and what are they? While the documentary was both interesting and entertaining, the sad truth is, that Nicholas Barclay, alive or dead, has twenty years later, never been found. I hope for the sake of those who truly love him, that one day, the truth of what happened to him is discovered, and closure is granted.
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Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon – To Catch a Thief (1955) – RobbinsRealm

robbinsrealm:

I would very much like to thank, Rob of Movierob and Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger, for hosting an awesome, Alfred Hitchcock Blogothon. If you’re not already a follower of either of those blogs, you need to immediately change that. Rob offers concise film reviews, which give a reader all of the pertinent information someone could possibly want in determining whether or not a particular film is for them. Zoe’s blog covers not only a diverse array of films, that span past and present, and represent a multitude of genres, but she also covers television series, as well as literature. In addition, if you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, a number of wordpress.com blogger’s participated in the blogothon, covering films that spanned the entire career of the master of suspense, and are well worth taking the time to read.

Originally posted on :

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For our 42nd review of the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, here’s a review of To Catch a Thief written by Jonathan of RobbinsRealm. If you don’t already follow his site, I strongly suggest that you go there to find some great movie reviews.

Thanks for joining in Jonathan!

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“Grant and Kelly Star in Hitchcock’s Gem – To Catch a Thief”

Jewels stolen in multiple burglaries during the night, women screaming when they wake in the morning to the realization that they have been robbed, and a black cat making its way across different rooftops. Those are the scenes which serve as the catalyst for director Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief.” The entertaining, well paced, witty and stylish film, premiered on August 3, 1955, in Los Angeles, California. The movie was not only another entry into Hitchcock’s illustrious body of work, but marked the return of two time Oscar nominated…

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“Robin Williams Inspirational In Dead Poets Society”

On Monday, August 11, 2014, shortly before noon, comedian and actor, Robin Williams, was found by EMT’s – unconscious and not breathing – at his home in Tiburon, California. Several minutes later, the sixty-three year old, who had imparted so much joy to the world over the years, was pronounced dead. According to the Marin County Sheriff’s Department, he had tragically ended his own life by suicide from asphyxia. A short time later, William’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, stated that the performer had been battling severe depression.

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Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago Illinois, and raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, before moving with his family to San Francisco when he was sixteen. There are many different career paths Williams could’ve chosen. For instance, he could have decided to enter politics like his great grandfather, Anselm J. McLaurin, who was both a former Governor of, as well as United States Senator from, the State of Mississippi. Williams did briefly entertain the thought of making politics his life’s work. He studied political science at Claremont Men’s College, but in the end, thankfully, entertaining the masses had a more magnetic pull on him, so he enrolled in the College of Marin to study theater. A short while later, he won a scholarship to attend Julliard in New York City.

While at Julliard, Williams studied under, Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actor, John Houseman (Three Days of the Condor). The veteran actor informed Williams that he was wasting his time, and should immediately set out to make a name for himself in stand-up comedy. Before graduating, Williams left Julliard and moved back home to San Francisco, where he worked a series of dead end jobs, while waiting for his big break.

After performing in various nightclubs, such as “The Improv” and “The Comedy Store,” he eventually got to audition for producer, Garry Marshall (Laverne & Shirley). Marshall hired him for a guest appearance on the television show “Happy Days,” as the character of ‘Mork from Ork, in the 1978 episode “My Favorite Orkan.” The popularity of the character, an eccentric alien, who travels to earth to study both the planet and human beings, led Williams to co-star with Pam Dawber (My Sister Sam), in the show “Mork & Mindy,” which ran on ABC television from 1978-1982. (As an aside, in addition to “Happy Days,” and “Mork & Mindy,” Williams played the character of Mork in the pilot episode of the short lived television show “Out of the Blue.”)

Robin Williams in 1978

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According to IMDB, Williams compiled one hundred and four acting credits during the course of his career, garnering four Academy Award nominations, and one Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for “Good Will Hunting.” In addition, he won the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2005 Golden Globes. Prior to that, he had won an impressive five Golden Globes: for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion -Picture Comedy / Musical for “Mrs. Doubtfire;” a special Award for the vocal work he did as the Genie in the animated Disney film “Aladdin;” Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy / Musical for “The Fisher King;” Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy / Musical for “Good Morning, Vietnam,” and Best TV Actor – Musical / Comedy for Mork & Mindy (1980). Williams was also the recipient of two Primetime Emmys in 1987 for “Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin,” and in 1988 for “ABC Presents: A Royal Gala.”

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“Dead Poets Society,” one of my favorite films starring Robin Williams, was directed by BAFTA winner, Peter Weir (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World). The film was written by Tom Schulman, who would win the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Originally premiering in Canada on June 2, 1989, the film was a box office success; budgeted for well under twenty million dollars, it would go on to earn close to one-hundred million. The movie which is 128 minutes in length, won two BAFTA’S for Best Film and Best Original Score.

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The year 1959. The setting, Vermont. It is the start of a new school year at the exclusive, Welton Academy, a male preparatory school. A small group of students enter an assembly hall, carrying banners that extol the four pillars of the school – tradition, honor, discipline and excellence – words which the entire student body will stand in unison and recite a moment later. Amongst the faculty, most of whom come off as very stern and serious, there is one teacher that seems out of place.

Intelligent, quick witted, English teacher, John Keating (Williams) has passion when it comes to poetry, but he has an even greater love for life. He believes in seizing the day, something which he often entertainingly imparts to his students, most of whom are enthralled with his teaching methods. In fact, he starts his very first class, by having the students leave the room and follow him out into the hallway. “O Captain! My Captain!” Keating says aloud, and then asks the students if any of them knows where that line comes from? None of them answer, so Keating informs them that it is a poem by Walt Whitman about President Abraham Lincoln. He lets his students know, that in his class, they can call him Mr. Keating, or if they are more daring, O Captain! My captain!

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While out in the hallway, where photos of previous graduating classes are located, Keating asks his students to look at the pictures. He wants them to see how the men in the photos are not that much different than themselves. He wants his students to realize that just like them, those young men thought they were invincible. They were boys, who at the time had their whole lives ahead of them to make a difference in the world, but that sadly, each and every one of them, is now six feet under. Keating asks his class: Did those former students achieve what they wanted to in life? Will they, his current students, live by the Latin adage ‘Carpe Diem,’ and seize the day, or as one of Keating’s favorite poets, Henry David Thoreau writes in regard to most men, “will they lead lives of quiet desperation.”

The film mainly focuses on four key students, who take Mr. Keating’s lessons to heart. Robert Sean Leonard (House M.D.) portrays Neil Perry. He is an overachiever, who secretly yearns to be an actor, but whose father, played by Kurtwood Smith (That ’70s Show), wants to hear none of it. Mr. Perry has a single minded purpose for Neil, which includes his son graduating from Welton, going to Harvard, and becoming a doctor. After Neil earns his medical degree, he can do whatever he wishes with his time, but as he lets Neil know, he has made far too many sacrifices for his son to fall short of achieving the goal; besides, he reminds Neil how much the young man’s becoming a doctor means to the boy’s mother. In the role of Todd Anderson is three time Oscar nominee, Ethan Hawke (Training Day). He is a new student to Welton, and his character is that of an introvert, at least at the start. There is the romantic, Knox Overstreet, played by Emmy nominated actor, Josh Charles (The Good Wife), who falls in love at first sight with Alexandra Power’s character of Chris, who is the girlfriend of the school jock. Lastly, Gale Hansen’s (The Finest Hour) Charlie Dalton is the troublemaker of the class.

After the first class, Keating has most definitely peaked his students’ curiosity. Knowing that he is an alumnus of the school, they find his class yearbook. After having a chuckle at his picture, their curiosity is further piqued by something that is written under his photo. It is about him being a member of a club known as ‘The Dead Poets Society.’ When the students confront Keating about the club, he lets them know that the ‘Dead Poets’ were dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life. The group would meet at an old Indian cave, located on the school grounds, and take turns reading poets such as Thoreau, Shelly and Whitman. The members of the club considered themselves romantics, and they didn’t just read poetry, they breathed a passion into the words they recited. Part of what Williams’ character tries to teach his students, is that they have to break free from conformity and what is expected of them, in order to embrace their inner passion. In essence, they must find their inner voice, so it will let each one of them know what will make their individual lives worth living. He stresses that maintaining one’s own beliefs is not easy, but they must each trust in themselves that they are making the right choices. It doesn’t matter if what they want to do is unpopular, or viewed as odd, just because it defies everything that the rigidness of conformity represents.

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A book is left on Neil’s desk called “Five Centuries of Verse.” When Neil opens the book, he sees Mr. Keating’s name in the top right hand corner; underneath is a hand written message that reads: To Be Read At The Opening of DPS Meetings. The traditional message that opens all club meetings is a message from Thoreau. That night, under the cover of darkness, a select group of students sneak off through the woods to the cave. While there, they take turns reading and telling stories. Unfortunately, one of the members of the newly formed ‘Dead Poets’ puts an article about their activities in the school newspaper. The article, coupled with the tragic suicide of one of Welton’s most promising students, has the administration in an uproar. In order to get to the bottom of things, the powers that be, are not above, not only using threats, but the vile method of corporal punishment that was both permitted and quite acceptable during the time period in which the film takes place.

What will happen to the members of the ‘Dead Poets Society,’ now that one of their own is dead? Will Mr. Keating ultimately be held responsible for the young man’s death? Do his teaching methods conflict too much with the way things have always been done at Welton? Does he get fired because of it? I know the movie is far from new, and a great many of you out there who are reading this already know the answers to those questions. For the benefit of those, who have yet to discover this gem of Robin Williams’ career, I will refrain from providing the answers to those questions.

The personal information I provided on Robin Williams was meant just to provide some basic background on the extraordinarily talented individual that he was. Had I discussed, at length, any number of the other worthy films he performed in, his work on behalf of the homeless, comedic stage performances, or mentioned numerous other facts, such as that he spoke French fluently, this blog would have had to have become a series, instead of a single entry. Williams, who was married three times, is survived by a daughter, Zelda and two sons, Zachary and Cody. Additionally, he is survived by his half-brother, Todd Williams. May he rest in peace. In closing, I am including the full Walt Whitman poem “O Captain! My Captain!” as a tribute to this very talented genius, at this very sad time.

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

 

 

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