“Hannie Caulder”

The catalyst for the film “Hannie Caulder” is a bank robbery which takes place in a small Mexican village. The robbery is being committed by the thieving, raping, violent, and often times buffoonish Clemens brothers: Emmett portrayed by Oscar winning actor, Ernest Borgnine (Marty); Frank played by character actor Jack Elam (Rio Lobo); and Rufus acted by Golden Globe nominee, Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke). The job isn’t a success, as one of the tellers manages to sound the alarm, alerting local law enforcement, who are stationed nearby. A shootout ensues, in which Frank is wounded, however, the Clemens brothers manage to escape.

HC Pic 1

While on the run, they come across a horse watering station where the brothers are about to steal fresh horses. Before they can do so, Jim Caluder, the operator of the station, arrives toting a shotgun, telling them they can get water for their horses, but that’s it. The response Rufus has to Jim’s statement is to kill him. Afterward, Rufus goes into Jim’s house and finds Caulder’s very attractive wife, Hannie, who is played by Golden Globe winner, Raquel Welch (The Three Musketeers). The wheels in his depraved mind begin turning, and he calls out to his two brothers to join him inside. Thereafter, the three take turns raping her. When they are through with their despicable actions, the brothers set fire to the Caulder’s house, and leave Hannie to die. Unbeknownst to them, she manages to get out of the house right before it is consumed by flames. The only thing left to her is a blanket, which she fashions into a poncho, and the pair of underwear she is wearing underneath it.

HC Pic 2

A short while after the horrific encounter with the Clemens, Hannie comes across a smart, and proficient, bounty hunter, Thomas Luther Price, who is played by Golden Globe and Emmy nominee, Robert Culp (I Spy). Not wanting recent history to repeat itself, she knocks Price unconscious. Hannie feels bad, however, for what she’s done, and waits for him to wake up. Additionally, she spots the body Price has slung across the back of his horse. Hannie asks him for help in exacting revenge against the Clemens brothers. He refuses her outright, and before leaving on his journey to collect the reward on his latest bounty, all he gives her is a hat to protect herself from the sun, and a canteen to drink from.

Hannie is not going to go away quietly; she follows Price, wherever he goes. He, however, remains steadfast in his choice of refusing to train her. One night, while she is sleeping, Hannie wakes up screaming from a dream about what the Clemens brothers did to her. Price feels empathy for Hannie, and comes to the realization that she has a justifiable reason for revenge, and that if he doesn’t train her, she most certainly will get herself killed.

HC Pic 3

After stopping off in the next town they come to, so Hannie can get some proper clothing, they head off to see Price’s friend Bailey, who is portrayed by BAFTA winner Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man). He is a gunsmith living in a villa on a Mexican beach with his wife and children. Price wants Bailey to construct a gun for Hannie; meanwhile, as Bailey is fashioning Hannie’s weapon, the bounty hunter has her perform exercises in order to build up her strength. Price’s instruction goes beyond just the physical. He wants Hannie to be mentally prepared for the fact that even if she succeeds in carrying out her vengeance, by winning, she will still lose, because killing changes a person. Price would prefer it if Hannie didn’t give in to her desire to kill, but to opt instead to abandon her plans, but that is something he knows she can’t do. In addition to a group of bandits, who attack the villa, while she and Price are staying there, Hannie also meets a mysterious gunfighter, known only as The Preacher, who is played by Golden Globe winner, Stephen Boyd (Ben-Hur). (As an aside: Hannie Caulder was the only western Christopher Lee ever appeared in during his lengthy career).

HC Pic 4

HC Pic 5

Does Hannie succeed in getting her revenge against the Clemens brothers? Does she die trying to carry out her plans? Will she abandon her lust for vengeance as Price wants her to? Who is the mysterious preacher? How does he fit into the overall story?

The film was directed by Burt Kennedy (Support Your Local Sheriff). Kennedy along with David Haft, co-wrote the script under the pseudonym Z.X. Jones based on a story written by Peter Cooper. In addition, the film lists character creation credits for Ian Quicke and Bob Richards. Parts crime, drama, and western, the movie premiered in London on November 8, 1971. In general, I felt the film was passable entertainment for one time viewing, at least for me. It is not something I think I’ll be interested in re-watching.

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

“Crooked – An Alternative History Of Richard Nixon”

During the early morning hours of June 17, 1972, five men were arrested at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The incarcerated individuals would be linked to the re-election campaign of the 37th President of the United States of America, Richard Nixon. While the arrests were taking place, President Nixon, and his Chief of Staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, were in Key Biscayne, Florida, and did not return back to Washington, D.C. until June 20th. Convening for a meeting at the White House that morning, Nixon and Haldeman spoke about Watergate, among other topics. The conversation lasted approximately sixty-nine minutes; like many conversations that take place in the Oval Office, it was recorded. (As an aside: The process of recording conversations to keep an historical record is something that was first implemented by America’s 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt and continues until this day with the current Obama administration).

Almost a year and half after the conversation was taped, The Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (The Watergate Committee) discovered that 18 1/2 minutes from the June 20th conversation had been erased. Facing certain impeachment, relating to Watergate, President Nixon resigned his office on August 9, 1974. What if, however, the actions Nixon took in regard to Watergate, amongst other things, were really that of a flawed savior instead of an outright sinner? A man, who through self-reflection, realized his personal short comings, and knew that because of a series of fortunate events, and the times in which he lived, that he had been able to rise to a position in American government, that was unfathomable. A President that wanted to protect not only America, but the world at large from sinister, supernatural forces, that only he and a privileged few throughout history, knew the true existence of. Those are just several of the questions that author and video game designer Austin Grossman poses in his alternative history novel “Crooked.”

Crooked Pic 1

The captivating, meticulously researched, sometimes humorous, and well conceived, 368 page novel was published by Mulholland Books on July 28, 2015. The book is written from the first person narrative of an extremely candid Nixon, and the majority of the story takes place after the end of the second World War.

Numerous historical figures of prominence appear throughout the novel, for example, America’s 34th and 40th Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Additionally, Grossman writes Nixon’s wife, First Lady Pat Nixon, as a woman who has long been suffering in an unloving marriage, that is devoid of passion, to a man she no longer cares for, but staying true to her marriage vows, remains loyally by Nixon’s side. Former National Security Advisor, and Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, takes on a role of great importance in the advancement of the plot. In the case of Kissinger, Grossman imagines that in actuality, he is not a mere mortal, but instead a thousand year old necromancer.

Grossman traverses all sorts of interesting scenarios in the novel, beginning with Nixon’s introduction to supernatural beings, while a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. Grossman writes about a Nixon one could scarcely imagine, but does thanks to his prose. A Richard Nixon that is trailing through the streets of New York City, and attempting to capture accused spy, former U.S. State Department and United Nations Official, Alger Hiss, in the act of espionage against America on behalf of the Soviet Union. After Nixon discovers the evidence he needs to get a conviction against Hiss, he returns to catch him in the act. Instead of finding Hiss, however, special soviet agents are not only waiting for him, but want to sacrifice Nixon to a supernatural entity. That is the catalyst which brings Nixon into the unseen world. Afterward Grossman imagines Nixon working closely with KGB operatives, Arkady and Tatiana, who are not spies in the traditional sense. For example, one of the missions they send Nixon on, during his time as a Congressman from California’s twelfth district, is to a top secret research facility in Pawtuxet, Massachusetts. At the facility things that shouldn’t exist do, and paranormal experimentation takes place on a grand scale.

Grossman also delves into President Eisenhower using supernatural powers to win military battles. Additionally, he speculates as to what was truly said during the missing 18 1/2 minutes of the erased conversation pertaining to the Watergate break-in. I haven’t used direct quotes from the book, nor have I gotten into a tremendous amount of specific plot detail, because for those of you who are interested in reading the novel, the less I comment on how different scenarios come to fruition the better. “Crooked” is an entertaining read from start to finish. Every time I was about to turn off the light to go to bed, even though I had to get up early the next morning, I kept wanting to read just a few more pages in order to find out what would happen next.

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Before the “Hunger Games” there was “Battle Royale”

With the emergence of “New York Times,” best selling author, Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel “The Hunger Games,” the comparisons to the Japanese film “Battle Royale,” originally titled in its native tongue “Batoru Rowaiaru,” have been plentiful. The 122 minute film, directed by Kinji Fukasaku, (Tora! Tora! Tora!) was released on December 16, 2000 in Japan, but never released theatrically in America. Cinephiles like me had to hunt down copies on ebay or score one at a fan convention, but that changed with the release of the blu-ray DVD on March 20, 2012, which was just several days before the March 23rd debut of the first Hunger Games film.

Battle Royale 1

Budgeted for an estimated $4,500,000, the screenplay for “Battle Royale” was written by Kenta Fukasaku, (Battle Royale II) who is the son of the director and it is based on the novel of the same name written by Koushun Takami. The “Battle Royale” book predates “The Hunger Games” by almost a decade; it was published in 1999 where as Collins’ novel was published by Scholastic on September 14, 2008. The two share very similar narrative and thematic elements, but each also has a distinct feel to it that keeps “The Hunger Games” from being a blatant rip off of both the “Battle Royale” book and movie. While both explore the effect of war and violence on young people, “Battle Royale” is darker, grittier, and more realistic, and focuses more on the actual battle. Conversely, “The Hunger Games” holds back and gives a much broader view of the dystopian society itself where the government is attempting to keep the general population in line. In addition, “The Hunger Games” is much more fantasy and science-fiction oriented.

Collins has claimed that she was unaware of “Battle Royale” while she was writing the first installment of “The Hunger Games” trilogy. She has stated that the inspiration to write the books came while she was looking for something to watch on television. On one station she watched people who were competing on a reality show and on another she watched images of the invasion of Iraq. In addition, according to the author, her idea to create the novel’s main character of Katniss Everdeen came from the Greek myth of Theseus, which served as a basis for the story. In Collins’ mind, Katniss was a Theseus of the future and the games that the Roman gladiators took part in formed the framework. The feeling of loss that the author developed through her father serving in the Vietnam War also played a role in the story. The heroine of “The Hunger Games” has been without her father for five years prior to the story beginning.

The film, “Battle Royale,” opens with a frenetic pace as a media crew rushes toward a slow moving car that is making its way through a throng of people. When the car is in view of the reporter, she speaks into her microphone, “Oh look there! There she is! The winner’s a girl! Surviving a fierce battle that raged two days, seven hours, and 43 minutes – the winner is a girl! Look, she’s smiling! Smiling! The girl definitely just smiled! This is of course the winner of the previous Battle Royale tournament, which we will not get to see, but that little mysterious snippet should grab hold of viewers and keep them hooked and asking questions. How can a little girl caked in blood look so happy? Did this seemingly innocent looking child take joy in killing her fellow classmates?  Does the need to live at any cost when thrust into a situation beyond our control remove the civility we are taught at home, school and in houses of worship?

Battle Royale 2

“Battle Royale” presents a terrifying premise, but it is also a highly engrossing film that paints a compelling portrait. A class of forty-two, ninth grade Japanese teenagers, who were picked by a lottery, is transported to an isolated island. Why are they there? At the dawn of the new millennium, the country of Japan is in a condition that is bordering on anarchy, especially as it pertains to the rise of both student disobedience and violence against teachers. In response, to the situation, the Japanese government enacts a new law called the “Battle Royale Act” in which, as stated previously, a random class of students are chosen, drugged, and taken against their will to an isolated location. Upon waking, the individual students will find that they have electronic tracking collars around their necks and are informed that they must spend the next three days eviscerating each other until only one of them is left. As a reward, if you can call it that, the remaining student gets to return home to the life they were taken from. If there should happen to be more than one student left alive upon the completion of three days, their collars will detonate explosive charges that are rigged inside of them and they will all die.

Battle Royale 3

Betrayal, friendship, and trust are evident in every scene which follows. Most of the students are reluctant, but there are a few among the class, who immediately adapt to the circumstances. For the most part the girls form social cliques, and they constantly turn against outsiders of their groups. As time continues to count down, frictions arise resulting in one-on-one confrontations as well as a scene that takes place in a lighthouse. For those of you who like his work, this scene, as it did for me, might make you think of Tarantino’s film “Reservoir Dogs.” In terms of the guys, there exists a trio of boys, who do work together in an attempt to save lives and beat the system by engaging in computer hacking and weapons building. Sadly, their efforts are thwarted by the most destructive player in the deadly game, a transfer student, Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando), who enjoys killing.

Battle Royale 4

The exchange of dialogue between the characters is poignant and conveys the innocence of the characters that have been thrust into an abysmal situation. The film’s three main protagonists are Shuya, who is a sensitive teenager, who after his father’s suicide, ends up in a foster home. He is in love with Noriko, who has a sweet disposition. The two end up vowing to protect one another from harm. Lastly, there is Kawada, a bandana wearing, survival expert, whose character has a mysterious air about him. The main protagonists are forced to depend on one another during the three day hellish ordeal. Since their fellow unwilling participants are armed with weapons that run the gauntlet from grenades to guns, the concept of mercy is an outdated one. While watching the movie, the viewer will see Shuya and Noriko clearly undergo character transformation by the time the film concludes. In regard to the adults in the movie, the only one the viewer comes to know is the headmaster, played by Takeshi Kitano, who is a jaded, unsuccessful parent and a teacher who hates students. Kitano gives a credible performance and even though your first instinct will likely be to want to hate him, don’t be surprised if you also wind up feeling sorry for him.

Battle Royale 5

The remaining thirty-nine students serve as a cross-section of every type of individual you’ve ever known in a school setting. Keeping that factor in mind, it is fascinating to see the different students’ particular approaches to the situation that has been thrust upon them as a collective whole. Not one of the cast members delivers a forced performance, which is a testament to whomever cast the film because the script does give almost everyone of them a chance to shine at some point during the movie. The fight scenes are not choreographed in the style of martial arts films and the students don’t suddenly become weapons experts, which lends more credibility to the movie.

Trivia buffs take note, in Japan “Battle Royale” is among the top ten highest grossing films in the country’s history. It is a history that contains one of the oldest and largest film industries in the world dating back to 1897 when movies where first produced there. During the 84 year history of the Academy Awards, Japan has won three honorary awards for the films “Rashomon” (1951), “Gate of Hell” (1954), “Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto” (1955) and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for “Departures” (2008). None of the members of the cast had any stunt doubles working in their place, not even lead actor Tatsuya Fujiwara. Fans of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films should pay attention to the character of student thirteen, Takako Chigusa, who is played by actress Chiaki Kuriyama, who acted in “Kill Bill: Volume 1” in the role of Gogo Yubari.

In conclusion, “Battle Royale” examines how diverse personalities evolve when confronted with serious danger. As previously stated, the viewer is confronted with a barrage of questions both during and after the credits roll. Could you not only turn on your friend, but take the life of someone you were friends with? Would you form alliances which, according to the way the tournament is structured, would probably just be an exercise in futility? Do you have a killer instinct that would be unleashed by this type of sadistic challenge and would killing, sadly, be not that big a deal to you? The movie takes many different viewpoints into consideration. “Battle Royale” is available in two incarnations, a film only DVD / Blu-ray or the complete collection Blu-ray, which includes the director’s cut of the film, the theatrical cut, the 2003 sequel, “Battle Royale II” and a bonus disc containing more than two hours of special features. For fans of Japanese action cinema, survival fare, and those of you who are fans of books such as “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson or “The Long Walk” by Stephen King, or movies like “The Running Man,” starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar, “Battle Royale” is a film, not to be missed.

Battle Royale 6


Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments


If one wanted to take a risk this Halloween, or any day for that matter, walk over to the nearest mirror and say this name five times: Candyman…Candyman…Candyman… Candy… I am not going to take the chance just in case. For it is said, that looking in the mirror, and saying his name five times, will extend an invitation to the supernatural being, who has a hook where one of his hands should be. From what is shown on screen, calling him forth, for most people, ensures a quick, brutal death.

Candyman Pic 1

At the start of the film, a story is being related, and shown via flashback, about a girl named Clara (Marianna Elliott). If a viewer were watching the film for the first time, and knew nothing about its content, after the opening jump scare, that viewer would likely think it was going to be a typical horror movie. Billy, played by Ted Raimi (Xena: Warrior Princess) arrives at the house where Clara is babysitting. She takes him to the bathroom, to test the theory of the Candyman legend. While Billy escapes, Clara is not as fortunate. The story is being told to Helen Lyle, a strong willed, doctoral student, portrayed by Oscar nominee, Virginia Madsen (Sideways). Helen, and her fellow student and friend Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons), are working on their thesis, which deals with urban legends. (As an aside: If Virginia Madsen had dropped out of the project, the role of Helen would have been played by Oscar winner, Sandra Bullock (Gravity) In addition, Golden Globe winner, Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) was considered for the role of Candyman).

Candyman Pic 2

Candyman Pic 3

Helen and Bernadette drive to the Cabrini-Green Homes, a Chicago public housing project. They have gone there to investigate the Candyman’s supposed involvement in terrible acts being committed against its residents. The location is a haven for drug dealing gangs who control their turf through ruthless intimidation and murder. The film paints the dismal landscape, almost as a desolate wasteland, fraught with decay and despair. While there, Helen and Bernadette, make disturbing discoveries of how ancient myths not only survive, but thrive in seemingly hopeless situations, as a way to explain real world horror. The residents, who live in the housing project, believe in the validity of Candyman’s existence, while Helen and Bernadette, coming from the world of academia, clearly do not.

Tony Todd, completely embodies the role of Candyman; from his foreboding voice to his imposing stature at 6’5.” He appears, for the first time to Helen, not in some visceral nightmare, or while she is out walking alone in the dark of night, but instead, during the daytime, in a parking garage. He is not a silent, masked killer, like Michael Myers from the Halloween films; neither is he a wise cracking, Freddy Kruger type from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Instead, he is a highly intelligent, supernatural being, which ties into his background, which is revealed through exposition, in a scene involving Michael Culkin’s character, Professor Philip Purcell.

Candyman Pic 4

What could have been a dull narrative that sounded like someone was reading from a text book, is made interesting by the way BAFTA winning cinematographer, Anthony B. Richmond, (Don’t Look Now) lit Madsen, as well as by the use of sound effects that were utilized to help enhance Purcell’s story. The following is explained by Purcell to Helen: Candyman, whose real name is Daniel Robitaille, was a well educated son of a slave, who was a talented artist. Unfortunately, during the time period in which he lived, his falling in love with a Caucasian woman, led to his not only getting his hand sawed off, but to his death by lynching. The scene, seemingly eludes to the fact that Helen is the reincarnation of the woman that Candyman loved. The way it plays out, could lead a viewer to think that she can recall being present when the heinous actions took place.

As Helen delves further into her research at Cabrini-Green, she comes in contact with the leader of one of the gangs (Terrence Riggins). He dresses like Candyman; and also pretends to have a hook for a hand. He attacks Helen, knocking her unconscious. After viewing a police lineup, she identifies her assailant, and the thinking is, that the terrible deeds ascribed to Candyman will come to an end; that is not what happens. While the wannabe Candyman is incarcerated, another murder takes place. Additionally, Helen, who was interviewing a devoted, struggling, single mother (Vanessa Williams), wakes up in the woman’s apartment, in a scene that looks like it is the product of a surreal nightmare; the worst part is, that the woman’s baby is missing. Helen is arrested and considered the prime suspect, not only for the first murder, but in the disappearance, and possible killing of the child. From that point onward, Helen and the Candyman are pitted against one another. He has orchestrated the horrific events because he desires Helen to be with him. If she continues with her work, attempting to discredit his existence, he will no longer be able to invoke fear in people. He wants to not only continue to do so, but to have Helen take her own place among urban legends, to quote Todd’s character:

“Your death will be a tale to frighten children, to make lovers cling closer in their rapture. Come with me, and be immortal.”

The latter half of the film has Helen fighting to prove her innocence and sanity, not only to the police, but to her husband, Trevor (Xander Berkeley). He, however, is a philandering professor, who would welcome getting his wife out of the way, so he would no longer have to hide his affair with one of his students, Stacey (Carolyn Lowery). Will Helen triumph over Candyman in the end, or does she succumb to the realization that her situation is hopeless, and willingly give herself to him?

Candyman Pic 5

The atmospheric, suspense filled, and thought-provoking film was written and directed for the screen by Bernard Rose (Mr. Nice); based on Clive Barker’s story “The Forbidden,” the movie was released to theaters on October 16, 1992. The film, which is parts drama and horror, has a runtime of 99 minutes. The movie’s score, which compliments what transpires on screen, was composed by Golden Globe winner, Philip Glass (The Truman Show). Glass was reportedly dissatisfied with the finished film, considering it nothing more than a generic, Hollywood slasher story. He felt he was tricked, by Rose, into composing a score for another sort of movie; due to his anger, he refused to allow his recordings of the score to be released for almost a decade after the debut of the film.

The movie traverses the line between the myth of an urban legend and reality. Rose does an excellent job making a viewer question what has actually happened as opposed to what is taking place only in the minds of the characters. While the film does contain gore, it is used in an effective manner to help further the plot. Viewers who are in the mood for a fast paced, visceral film, are going to be disappointed. While the film is primarily slow moving, what is implied, for the most part, is a great deal more potent, than what is actually shown on screen.

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

“In Search of Jack the Ripper”

Viewers are greeted by the image of a woman walking at a hurried pace on an empty street at night. She stops and turns around, a man approaches her; his face is out of focus, the woman screams. While this short scene was being played out, “In Search Of” host, Leonard Nimoy, spoke the following:

“During the autumn of 1888, there occurred one of the most baffling crimes in the files of Scotland Yard. In the Whitechapel area of London’s east end, women walked in fear of their lives. A wave of terror had been caused by an elusive murderer known as Jack the Ripper.”

Leonard Nimoy achieved fame with his portrayal of the logical minded Vulcan, Mr. Spock, in both the original “Star Trek” television series and in feature films. In addition to the many other projects he was involved with after “Star Trek,” as well as during its resurgence, he hosted the “In Search Of” television series which began in September of 1976 and ran through March of 1982. The program was a documentary style offering that, along with the voice over narration of Nimoy, combined interviews, archival footage, and reenactments. In total, the series produced 144 diverse episodes that examined, among other subjects, the supernatural, the mythical, and the historical. This particular episode, which aired on October 12, 1978, doesn’t focus on the heinous manner in which Jack the Ripper murdered five women, but instead, it explores the various theories as to the true identity of the killer; a hot topic of debate to this day. One of the more interesting theories to come out as recently as 2013 was posited by Trevor Marriott, a retired, Bedfordshire police detective. He spent over a decade reviewing cold case files, and with the use of modern law enforcement techniques, as well as forensic analysis, he concluded, that while terrible murders did occur, they weren’t committed by one person. Marriott claims that Jack the Ripper never actually existed, but was the fictional creation of journalist, Thomas Bulling.


In addition to the theories of who the ripper might have been, interesting information is imparted to the viewer: Jack the Ripper was the first ever serial killer to contact the press. The papers of the time period during the murders claimed that the killer threatened all of London, but the episode reveals that all of the ripper murders were committed within a one and half square mile area. Additionally, Jack the Ripper, always carried out his atrocities near potential witnesses and even the police themselves. Based on that information, “In Search Of” asks the question: Why was the ripper so bold? New evidence which was revealed in the 1970s, prior to the show’s taping, suggested that the identity of The Ripper became known to the authorities, but was kept secret. If that were true, what would prompt law enforcement to protect the identity of such a person?

On August 31, 1888, Jack the Ripper claimed the first of his five victims, Mary Ann Nichols. She had been turned away from a common lodging house, after begging for a bed for the evening because she didn’t have any money to pay for one. The other four known ripper victims, although speculation suggests there could be more, are Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly.

Interviews are conducted during the episode; amongst them is one with BBC reporter and researcher, Wendy Sturgess. She talks about the common lodging houses, and how sometimes, people who begged for money, and made some, still couldn’t get into one of those places. The reason for this is because they would consume gin to escape from the harshness of their reality, part of which, was that the houses they were trying to gain access to, had no privacy. Gin, at the time, was cheap to purchase, and a large amount of it could be bought for very little money.

Sturgess is convinced that Jack the Ripper was an aristocrat, based on the conditions of squalor, that many in the Whitechapel area were forced to live in. She asserts, that a poor person, who was covered in blood, would have been seen by too many people, entering one of the common lodging houses, or walking through the streets of Whitechapel. Therefore that financial class of person wouldn’t have been able to get away with the murders. In addition, a middle class individual, would have had to travel into the Whitechapel area, and would also have been spotted with blood all over their clothing by too many of the working girls in the area, the police, or if they hired transport, the driver of the coach.

Backing up Sturgess’ theory is Donald Rumbelow, a member, at the time, of London’s Metropolitan Police Force. He spoke about life in Whitechapel in terms of the working girls. Women, he said, would sell their bodies for a loaf of stale bread. He states that if someone who was devious, like a Jack The Ripper, was also a man of means, he could offer them, for example, a shilling, and most women would have gone with him, without question. Once the prostitute took The Ripper to a quiet place, it would have been easy for him to strangle her into unconsciousness, so that he could get to the ghastly sort of butchery he committed.

In addition to Sturgess and Rumbelow, English journalist and author, Stephen Knight, who wrote the 1976 book, “Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution,” discusses his theories. He relates the fact that the only clue left by the killer, a mysterious message chalked on a wall near the site of the fourth murder, that of Catherine Eddowes, was erased. What he finds most interesting, is that the person who destroyed the clue, was Sir Charles Warren, who at the time was the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Furthermore, he finds it perplexing, that Sir Charles never gave any reason for his actions. Knight believes that Sir Charles was perhaps motivated because the message indicated the involvement of the Freemasons, a group, which Sir Charles belonged to.

The involvement of the Freemasons, is associated with one of the more popular conspiracy theories that exists regarding the true identity of The Ripper; that being, Queen Victoria’s ( the reigning monarch at the time) grandson, Prince Albert Victor, The Duke of Clarence and Avondale. People who believe him to be Jack the Ripper, point to a number of circumstantial facts that sound good when first heard, but wouldn’t hold much weight in a court of law. The episode imparts some of this information to the viewer. For example, Prince Albert was studying art in Whitechapel at the time of the crimes. He fit the description of the man police were searching for – a well spoken man, with a fair complexion, between the ages of 20 and 40, who had a medium build. Of all the possible suspects for the murders, he was the only member of the Freemasons. He was rumored to be going slowly insane, due to having contracted syphilis from a working girl. Conspiracy theorists, who like to assert that Prince Albert was The Ripper, say that his motivation for killing the women was a warped revenge for the disease he caught, one that would claim his life four years after The Ripper murders. In addition, people who peg him as The Ripper, point to the fact that his physician, Sir William Gull, was seen rushing along the streets of Whitechapel on several nights when Ripper murders took place.

While it is true, that neither Prince Albert nor Dr. Gull would have been stopped for questioning by the police, especially if traveling in a royal coach, people who are sold on the fact that Prince Albert was The Ripper, tend to dismiss the other possible suspects who were in London during the same time. They are all men who could have easily committed the crimes. For example, John Pizer, nicknamed Leather Apron, was a suspect because he always wore the type of aprons butchers use to keep blood off of themselves, was known to abuse prostitutes, and carried a knife with him wherever he went. Dr. Thomas Neill Cream and George Chapman, also suspects, were both murderers, each with a history of wife killing; both would eventually be caught, convicted, and given death sentences. Montague John Druitt, a lawyer and teacher, was also of interest to the authorities. He came from a long line of medical doctors, from whom he could have learned anatomy and dissection, and was supposedly going insane at the time of the murders.

In relation to Sir William Gull, one piece of potentially damning evidence came out almost a century after the crimes – his diary. Dr. Gull’s diary was examined by Dr. Thomas Stowell, a renowned British physician. In a November 1970 issue of the “The Criminologist,” Dr. Stowell claimed that Dr. Gull’s diary contained a detailed medical history of Prince Albert, as well as Dr. Gull’s admission that he knew the Prince was Jack the Ripper. Stowell, stated this claim on the BBC program “24 Hours,” on November 2, 1970, however, on November 5th, he wrote to the London Times and recanted everything he had to say about Prince Albert; several days later Dr. Stowell died. Less than a day after his death, his son, destroyed all of Dr. Stowell’s research and papers pertaining to Jack the Ripper, including Dr. Gull’s diary. In certain circles, it is thought that Dr. Stowell was murdered because of his discovery; it should be mentioned, however, that he was 85 years of age at the time of his death.

Like many shows in the series, this one lends itself to researching things of interest that were mentioned during the episode. Numerous conspiracy theories, such as the one concerning itself with the identity of Jack the Ripper, unless irrefutable proof is discovered, don’t seem like they are going to be going away anytime soon. This was an episode of “In Search Of” the theorizing of which captivated my interest.

Posted in TV Series | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

“Tales of Halloween – Goofy, Gory, and Gruesome Entertainment”

The tales begin with writer and director, David Parker’s (Master’s Of Horror) “Sweet Tooth.” During the opener, the viewer is treated to an urban legend, that has been passed down to children on Halloween night, after they’ve returned home from trick-or-treating. While Lizzie (Madison Iseman) is babysitting Mikey (Daniel DiMaggio), her boyfriend (Austin Falk) takes it upon himself to scare the young child. As Austin watches Mikey gorging himself on every piece of candy he’s collected that evening, he warns the boy that he better save some for ‘Sweet Tooth.’ The puzzled Mikey asks who that is, and that is when Austin relates the story, as the scene dissolves into a flashback.

TOH Pic 1

Fifty years earlier, a child named Timmy Blake (Cameron Easton) loved every aspect of Halloween. He loved to get dressed up in a costume and go out trick-or-treating. The one thing he disliked was returning home. At this point, Mikey interrupts Austin to ask why, stating that, that is the best part. Not for Timmy, as it turned out. Austin explains to Mikey, that Timmy’s parents would take his candy haul from him and send him to bed, without another word. One night, curious to know what happened with all the candy, Timmy left his room, and snuck downstairs. The sight that greeted his eyes, was of his parents eating all of the candy, while also making love. Something within Timmy snapped at that very moment, and he kills his parents, afterward, he proceeds to eat every last bit of candy.

A scared Mikey pockets a piece of candy, which he take to his room. After Lizzie leaves to go back down stairs, Mikey creeps out of bed, and places an unwrapped candy bar on the floor. Lizzie gets on Austin for scaring Mikey, but it doesn’t last long, as the two proceed to eat all of the remaining candy. Feeling on the verge of being nauseous, Lizzie leaves the room to get some medicine. While she’s gone, Austin’s eyes are closed, and he hears the words ‘Trick-or-Treat.’ At first, he doesn’t think much of it, but he is in a for a rude awakening, because when he opens his eyes, he learns, that ‘Sweet Tooth’ is much more than the product of legend. Running back into the room, thinking Austin is sick, Lizzie discovers he’s been killed, and she begins to scream. ‘Sweet Tooth’ runs after her, and off camera, makes short work of her, before coming up the stairs to Mikey’s bedroom. Rather than show the full creature walk into the room, his razor sharp fingernails scoop up the candy bar Mikey has left for him, and the door closes without incident.

TOH Pic 2

Shifting backward to the daylight hour, the second of the ten tales, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II) and written by Clint Sears is called “The Night Billy Raised Hell.” Billy (Marcus Eckert) is dressed like the devil, with a rubber, red faced mask, replete with goatee and horns; red cape and tights complete his costume. He is being chaperoned by his older sister, Britney (Natalie Castillo), and her boyfriend, Todd (Ben Stillwell), even though he seems to be the only child who is out trick or treating so early in the day.

After Todd threatens Billy that he is going to tell everyone that he peed his pants if he doesn’t egg a house, the young child reluctantly agrees. Walking up to the door, just as he is about to throw the egg, it opens, and what can only be a seemingly costumed gentleman, steps outside and takes the egg from Billy. In the interim, seeing that the door was opening, Britney and Todd began running away. The man who took the egg from Billy, with perfect aim, throws it at Todd’s back, knocking him down onto the street. An apologetic Billy, doesn’t get to talk his way out of the situation, as he is dragged inside the man’s home.

Billy’s captor, who appears to be the devil incarnate, is portrayed by Golden Globe winner, Barry Bostwick (Spin City). Once inside the house, he informs Billy, that tonight, he is going to learn what a real Halloween prank is all about. Bostwick’s character isn’t kidding; the mayhem he and his new protégé get up to include, but is not limited to, setting things on fire, robbing a convenience store at gunpoint, stealing a car, and defacing property. At the end of the evening will Billy be able to return to his life as a normal child who must follow the rules? Was everything he had done that Halloween night the product of a dream? Is there another twist in store for the young protagonist? I won’t spoil it for those of you who would like to see the film.

TOH Pic 3

The 92 minute, horror anthology movie, features ten tales directed by eleven people; the segment “This Means War” was co-directed. The film premiered in Canada on July 24, 2015 at the Fantasia International Film Festival. I am not going to do a segment breakdown of every tale because I have no desire to spoil the movie for those of you who want to watch it. Suffice it to say, that the tales run the gamut from the cleverly done, “Trick,” in which a group of adults, become the target of children who are determined to do them in, to the silly and gory “Friday the 31st.”

Throughout the movie, the viewer is treated to stories involving: a vengeful ghost – a supernatural revenge tale; a modern day twist on the fairy tale of “Hansel and Gretel” – a pair of kidnappers that get way more than they bargained for; dueling neighbors, one who appreciates an old school approach to horror, while the other likes to be more overt; as well as a killer pumpkin, which brings everything to a close. There are notable cameos throughout, including amongst others: Lin Shaye (Insidious); Emmy winner, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London); Greg Grunberg (Heroes); Joe Dante (The Howling); and Golden Globe nominee, Adrienne Barbeau (Maude), who does voice over narration as a DJ.

TOH Pic 4

“Tales of Halloween” as a whole is an entertaining way to pass an hour and a half, especially for those of you who like horror anthology films. Like most anthology movies, not every tale delivers to its full potential, and some segments are much better than others in terms of story and entertainment value. The good thing for those segments a viewer dislikes, is that each one has a short runtime, so if one doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t take long before a new tale is being presented. While gory imagery and terrible scenarios play out throughout different parts of the film’s duration, the overall tone comes off as a more dark comedic offering than horrific. Viewers who are looking for a scare a minute thrill ride might want to keep that in mind.

TOH Pic 5

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“The Craft”

At the start of the film, teenager, Sarah Bailey, portrayed by Robin Tunney (The Mentalist), her father (Cliff De Young), and stepmother (Jeanine Jackson) move from San Francisco to a suburb of Los Angeles. Sarah, the viewer will learn, is running away from a troubled past, having tried to commit suicide. The tranquility of her new surroundings doesn’t last long. No sooner does she set foot in her new place, and begin to unpack, a man (Arthur Senzy) holding a snake appears in the doorway to the house and scares Sarah; her father chases him away.

Wanting to forget about the unsettling incident, she attends her first day at a catholic high school. There she will make three new friends: The anger prone Nancy, played by Fairuza Balk (Ray Donovan); the insecure Bonnie, a role acted by Neve Campbell (Scream); and the talented, swim team member, Rochelle, portrayed by Rachel True (Half & Half). The girls are a coven of witches, who members of the student body refer to as ‘The Bitches of Eastwick.’ The trio has been seeking a fourth member to complete the four corners: north, south, east, and west, in order to call forth the elements of nature.

TC Pic 1

The leader of the group is Nancy, who comes from a dysfunctional home life. She lives in a trailer with her drunken mother, Grace (Helen Shaver), and slovenly, abusive stepfather, Ray (John Kapelos). Bonnie wants nothing more than to rid herself of the scars that cover her back. She has started to undergo medical procedures to have them removed by a doctor, a small role acted by Emmy nominee, Brenda Strong (Desperate Housewives). The African-American, Rachel, has to deal on a daily basis with racist commentary directed at her by Laura played by Christine Taylor (The Brady Bunch Movie).

Things seem to be looking up for Sarah. She has made friends, and is asked out on a date by football jock and all around popular guy, Chris (Skeet Ulrich). At the end of their date, however, after she politely rejects going back to his house, he decides to tarnish her reputation. The next day in school, Sarah finds out that Chris has told everyone a different version of events than what actually took place the previous evening. When she tries to confront him about spreading untruthful gossip, his friend Mitt (Breckin Meyer) runs interference. When Chris does speak to her, it is to tell her that she needs to stop asking him out because it’s pathetic.

Sarah has known for some time that she has a power within herself; something which is conferred to her by Lirio (Assumpta Serna), an owner of a magic shop that the girls frequent. For example, one time when she wanted it to rain, she concentrated very hard, and a pipe burst in her room. Sarah, together with her new friends, begins to perform levitation and glamour spells, which soon gives way to more powerful magic. Sarah makes Chris become infatuated with her. He carries her and her friends books, and shows up at her house in the wee hours of the morning, claiming that she is all he thinks about. Nancy gets rid of her stepfather, seemingly, by wishing him into a heart attack. The end result is that she and her mother receive $175,000 from his life insurance policy. On only her second visit to the doctor’s office, for the special procedure, Bonnie’s scars are able to be wiped cleanly from her body. The removal of the scars gives her an immediate new outlook, as well as attitude, toward life. Rachel, the victim of Laura’s taunts, one in particular about her hair, sees to it that Laura begins to lose hers. No matter what she does, the blonde locks she once took pride in, keep falling out. It won’t take long before Sarah realizes the girls, especially Nancy, are abusing their powers. After one particular incident which results in death, she wants no more part of the coven. Leaving, however, she will soon learn, will not be that simple.

“The Craft” was directed by Andrew Fleming, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Filardi, whose story the movie was based on. The film was released to theaters on May 3, 1996. The movie which is parts drama, fantasy, horror, and thriller has a runtime of 101 minutes. Those looking for continuous scares throughout will be disappointed. The film has frightening scenes, especially toward the end, but is more supernatural in tone than horrific. For fans of the cast, this should be an entertaining watch.

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments