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Austenland [DVD] [2013]
Austenland [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Keri Russell
Price: 7.04

5.0 out of 5 stars A modern remake, funny as hell, and then some, 8 Mar 2014
This review is from: Austenland [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
AUSTENLAND (Writ./Dir. Jerusha Hess, 2013, 97 minutes, based on the novel by Shannon Hale) ~

There can be no better, deeper or more profound comedy than that which forces us to peer into our deepest dreams ... only to force us to laugh heartily at them. There is no better comedy than a masterpiece of satire, done so delicately that feelings are real even when nothing else is. This film is IT.

In this marvelously witty remake of "Pride & Prejudice", Keri Russell plays New Yorker Jane Hayes, a bigger Austen-head than me and my wife put together. Naturally she focuses on the beautiful Pride & Prejudice: Keepsake Edition [Blu-ray] [1995] [US Import], fantasising about actually finding and marrying a real-life Mr. Darcy (or is that Colin Firth she wants, and who can blame her if so?).

Stumbling onto Austenland, a sort of theme park set in what is obviously a true English estate just outside London (it's the same estate that was Hanbury in Cranford [Blu-ray] [Region Free]), Jane spends her last penny to go. It is her ultimate fantasy ... or is it? For that matter, is this movie throwing in nods to Persuasion (Repackaged) [DVD] [1995] or am I mad? And may I say, if Americans are the butt of some weird joke here--which I LOVED--neither do the British come away unscathed.

In the rancid, horrible place, a crazy old woman (a wonderful Jane Seymour) pushes her fantasy-seeking guests into the deepest crevices of the Regency Period. She hires the "best actors" to play Austen-type characters and promises every lady a proposal of marriage by the end of their stay. It was the funniest, tackiest thing I have seen since I saw my first John Waters film. The problem is, as one character says, there is danger in this kind of role-playing.

What I find amazing is the way the role-playing professionals are actually parodying genuine actors ... which after all, everyone in this film is in real life! It's INSANE!!! And I will spoil this no further because you MUST not only see it but also own it. It is historic. The hilarious Jennifer Coolidge alone makes this worthwhile, but then so do the two "absent cameos" by Colin Firth.

I never saw actors have so much fun. I never thought anyone could parody the love for Jane Austen whilst simultaneously complementing her to the heavens--but AUSTENLAND does it with its queer, dopey characters and Goon Show style humour. Get this ... give me your word you will or I shall be forced to depart a company such as this.


Jews, God, and History
Jews, God, and History
by Max Isaac Dimont
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 4.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We're good Babylonian Jews: who wants to go back to Israel??", 9 Oct 2013
Max Dimont is little known to me and I am not too ashamed to say so ~ but it has been my loss. His creds just say he was educated in Finland and lectured a lot in St. Louis ~ so perhaps my St. Louis cousins know of him, but I don't. Only the name was vaguely familiar to me.

This book of his, JEWS GOD AND HISTORY at just over 420 pages is a marvel especially since it is his first book. (Here's the 50th anniversary edition!) Not one of the best of its kind but in fact a sort of stand-alone brief history of the Jews. While Dimont's left brain sometimes merely transcribes history right out of the TORAH, his right brain mocks and disbelieves some of it. He certainly gives the Jewish people and religion a bit of a hard time.

That is precisely the joy of this book. Dimont is not going to kick any sacred cows which don't really need kicking: he does not argue one iota with the old traditional dates and events, such as the Exodus occurring in 1200 B.C. He does not seem to argue the existence of Moses, though nearly every other scholar does so. Dimont also swallows whole the lie that is Christianity.

Otherwise and mostly, Dimont gives a streamlined, wonderfully abbreviated history from the Jewish perspective without going nuts like a Zionist would do. I learned more from Dimont's book in some cases than I have learned in my lifelong education. For example, did you know that while in Babylonian captivity, the Jews became civilized, prosperous and happy? "We're good Babylonians, who wants to leave?", Dimont imagines them saying when King Cyrus of Persia freed them.

There are so many wonderful tidbits and the book doesn't read as dated as you might think. It is dated to be sure, at least my 1962 copy is, but nothing we can't handle. It is, in fact, a stunning and subtle exposé of Dimont's own theories: one is that the original Hebrews and the later ones (post-Sinai) were two different but related folks.

Another theory he puts out there is the Jews did an about-face with their religious beliefs around 600 B.C. in order to survive and exclude other peoples from their midst. Now THAT is fascinating, and no one as far as I know has disproved Dimont's theories yet! If you'd like two sides of the spectrum: try John Bright's A History of Israel (Third Edition) (Westminster Aids to the Study of the Scriptures) then Prof. Shlomo Sands' The Invention of the Jewish People (see my reviews).

Aha!! You'll find both Bright and Sand basically leaning heavily on Dimont's seminal work.

NOW, FOR THE TRULY BAD AND SOUR: Dimont may be said to take liberties. He flies right over, with far too much convenience, some interesting albeit minor episodes in Israel's history. For example, whilst he discusses the origins of the Hebrews for a few pages, he suddenly abandons the subject with almost as little as he broached it.

Dimont dangles his carrots often, and as such, he omits important periods or simply dismisses events as he sees them rather than to admit that hopeless truth: no one knows the details for certain. He seems to praise Josephus-the-Lair, yet dismisses Rabbi Akiva and the Bar Kochba Rebellion in a few (slightly inaccurate) paragraphs. I hate it when authors dangle the carrot then run. Who learns anything that way?

And I was honestly quite put out by his easy dismissal of King Saul and totally ignoring the relationship between David and Prince Jonathan. Dimont sours the wine a bit too often in this manner.

What annoyed me most was Dimont's struggle not to be a loudmouth Christian when addressing the topic of Jesus, but he managed it anyway. He avoids references to the divinity of Jesus and simply pretends the Jews magically changed into Christians. He also simply and lazily follows what everyone is taught, which is all wrong.

All Dimont did here was summarize the synoptic Gospels, not even bothering to utilize the Gospel of John which is the one non-synoptic Gospel. What opportunities he threw away here! Especially after his concise yet educational explanation of the Maccabee dynasty and its rule.

Of course Dimont also covers, for example, the history of the Jews from the beginnings of civilization through the Roman invasion, in 100 neatly, tightly written pages. It is but a quarter of his book and look how far he manages to get. That's a bit like gleaning all of history from a history of the popes. Only Dimont makes his narrative flow well, despite some amateurish errors and dopey, dated spellings.

Get this and read true world history by a mercurial, eccentric and forgotten man who really had the 'Jewish number'. We might just all learn how to get along under Dimont's weird guidance.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2014 9:11 AM GMT


The Invention of the Jewish People
The Invention of the Jewish People
by Shlomo Sand
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inventions, correct thyselves, 9 Oct 2013
THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE by Professor Dr. Shlomo Sand.

It is necessary, considering the controversy of Sand's overall work, to defend him and his position as a whole. He admits he started out wondering what constitutes Jewry and where our origins lie. Sand tried documenting what he learned by writing this book.

He admits he learned some shocking facts, and spells them out. I do not care for that sloppy tack, but one can understand his line of thinking. Sand asks: are Jews willing to accept purely racial motivations? Hence his first chapter, attempting to sound out the definition of a "race", a "people", a "nation'. All of which are used by Israelis as excuses for doing some bad things.

In brief, Sand contends a number of things: "pure" Jews don't exist; Israel and Judea were 'historically insignificant'; the Bible is 100% fiction; Jews are no different than any other people; there is no such thing as a "race" or a "nation"; many ancient pagans became Jews; many Jews later became Muslim, including the Palestinians; historians accept the Bible as fact and ignore true science - in an effort to justify the state. I'd say they are all logical, no-nonsense assertions. Most of them can be taken as truth.

Sand walks on some old but rarely trodden ground: the study of Jewish origins. An unbroken Jewish line is a fiction, says Sand, as are the expulsions, captivities and deportations reported in the Torah. Certainly each catastrophe occurred to a degree, but nothing like the major ones we are traditionally taught - so Sand alleges.

It makes one want to study the issues in-depth, to see if Sand has it right or not. I have a huge problem with anyone trying to deny the expulsion from Spain, for example. Yet he also strikes several important nerves, because one can learn a great deal about the Babylonian conquest by reading Max Dimont's marvelous old work from the 1960s, especially Jews, God, and History.

Though writing and organizing poorly, Sand fills in many gaps originally created by anxious Zionist propagandists. He answers historical queries, but Sand can leap from the proposition that Solomon never existed to quoting Josephus in the space of two pages. That's not in-depth. If Sand is really only wondering how we got an unbroken Jewish lineage and the State of Israel, well, there are better arguments than Sand's.

Prof. Sand ultimately crossed a terrible desert here. It is strong work, though he loves unreliable fictions as sources, too much for his own good. I.e., Sand debunking the Bible completely as a reliable scientific source (good for him), then immediately turning round and quoting extensively from the Acts of the Apostles as a source.

Sand errs a lot: don't depend on him to provide an extensive or comprehensive history. Also, don't expect explanations, i.e., Sand's insistence on mentioning the Bene Mikra (Karaite) Jews then pretending he didn't mention them. Sand ought to know you can't have your latkes and eat them, too.

Prof. Sand gets deeply involved with the Khazar people, the controversial kingdom said to have ruled near Russia from the 8th to the 11th centuries A.D. The contention that these allegedly Turkic people converted to Judaism, then basically engendered the entire Ashkenazic population, was a big topic a couple of years ago.

Sand approaches this query first from the work of Judah Halevi and his "Letters"; Sand goes on to study the implications of the Khazarian question, who they were, how 'Jewish' they were, etc. Many of the modern claims about the Khazars are not true, and Sand tries to remove the sand thrown in our eyes by previous historians. Sadly, he's out of his depth, but then, so is everyone else.

As Isaac Asimov said, who cares about the Khazars?

Yet Sand must be credited for this effort, originally published in Hebrew (and then rejected) in Israel. As he admits, this book is neither a history proper, nor does it always get things right. Sand admits he is traveling the unknown - always a mistake for any academic - but he gets through it well enough to give us great food for thought.

Whatever you do, do not ignore this book. It's not great, but it is a start. Sand has found that religion does not constitute a race or nation! That is anthropology 101 for heaven's sake. At the end of the day I think that is what is stuck in Sand's craw. I cannot blame him for that.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2014 3:02 PM GMT


Wedding Gift [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Wedding Gift [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jim Broadbent
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: 4.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the brave threesome who told the world about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 3 Oct 2012
THE WEDDING GIFT (1993, 87 minutes, for BBC TV) is the riveting, heartwrenching story of Derik (Jim Broadbent) and Diana (Julie Walters), the Longdens, who suffer cruelly through Diana's battle with chronic fatigue syndrome. Set in England, where the Longdens are from, it shows Derik and Diane traipsing about trying to get Diane diagnosed. She ends up being labeled a hysteric, a "nutter", and down the drain goes any hope of diagnosis. At the pivotal point she tells Derik, "They haven't yet invented more tests" after her final round.

This role was a breakout role for Broadbent, who was already beloved in Britain and had yet to impact on America. His similar work in Iris [DVD] [2002] (the story of Iris Murdoch, see my review) was another masterpiece, these being what I like to call "Broadbent Strokes" (my term, don't steal it).

As for Diane, she has euthanasia in mind if the doctors can do nothing for her. This drives Derik to the brink - until he chances to meet novelist/playwright Aileen Armitage (a lovely actress I recognize but whose name I can't seem to find). The real Armitage, after Diane's death and her marriage to Derik, helped him to write about their story - which in turn gave major exposure to this condition which is still blown off by incompetent doctors.

Everyone does remarkable, expert work here. Walters is so moving, so sympathetic and I suppose this is because she slightly resembles my mother - but I wept at her performance. Having MS that went undiagnosed for almost a decade put me right in her chair.

If only American television had this drive and power. There is humor here, far more than one might expect from a disease-related tragedy, and I understand this is thanks to Derik's writings as well as Aileen's. All I can say is GET THIS magnificent, secret jewel and learn the story of three brave, loving people and their battle to put a name/diagnosis to an evil demon that preys on too many people.

This is well worth it to have such an important piece of actual modern history. Especially with Broadbent and Walters turning in what I'd call sparkling 'mid-career' performances.


Sovereign: Elizabeth II and the Windsor Dynasty
Sovereign: Elizabeth II and the Windsor Dynasty
by Roland Flamini
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars 'No better icing on the cake than royal icing.' - and this is how all royal bios should be written, 1 Aug 2012
SOVEREIGN: ELIZABETH II AND THE WINDSOR DYNASTY by Roland Flamini (1991, 440 pages, Delacorte Press of Bantam, Doubleday, Dell: New York) is an excellent, richly detailed biography and backstory. Whilst there is always of necessity a wall when documenting the life of Her Majesty, Flamini presents us with a well written and humorous biography which could serve as an educational tool for other biographers.

Flamini allows the queen to speak for herself - that provides the most humorous bits in the biography. It is also well stocked with observations, short biographies of the Windsor family going back to King George V and Queen Mary, and Flamini does not shy away from writing respectfully about the relationship the queen has with others. It is a stunning biography of character as well as monarchy.

There is no doubt Flamini is a royalist and a loyalist, but there is no backside-smooching here either. He is calmly and confidently straightforward with the facts, and everything is so well assembled that this is a very hard book to stop reading. It flows like a beautiful novel. Maltese-born Flamini shows a real affection for the queen and the royal family, yet he does not shy away from details such as the queen's cold attitude toward Prince Charles, or her equally cavalier attitude toward her husband.

An excellent example of the humor here is a story about the queen as a little girl, listening in on her father and her uncle, the Duke of Windsor and abdicated King Edward VIII. Hearing nasty commotion that had to do with Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth told her sister Princess Margaret, "I think Uncle David wants to marry Mrs. Baldwin [then-prime minister's wife] ... " Some of the passages are laugh-out-loud but it is the best of biography as far as I am concerned.

This book is truly the opposite number to Kitty Kelley's The Royals (see my review): whilst Kelley, for example, rather offensively divulged humiliating secrets about the old Queen Mother's illnesses, Flamini describes with enthusiasm the little-known skill King George VI displayed with needlework and embroidery. Flamini points out that several chairs and cushions at Buckingham Palace bear the king's handiwork.

I love the detail about the queen that is the least known side of her: that public scowl so fierce that it has damaged her reputation is merely a way for her to suppress strong emotions - including giggling fits. Flamini concludes with a stunning set of prophecies about the queen's final years and Charles' future; what I dislike about this biography most is that it simply peters to its end without really addressing the very late 1980s or 1990. Of course the biography is in that sense dated - but no less valuable!

The font is generous, there are no 'filthy' footnotes though the notes are copious, and the biography is always on point or to the point - everything the usual royal biography is NOT. No one can claim an interest in royalty, the Windsor Dynasty or Queen Elizabeth II without owning this wonderful book.


EDWARD VIII
EDWARD VIII
by FRANCES DONALDSON
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ICH DIEN but apparently not very well in the biography department, 22 July 2012
This review is from: EDWARD VIII (Paperback)
EDWARD VIII (A/K/A EDWARD VIII A BIOGRAPHY OF THE DUKE OF WINDSOR) by Lady Frances Donaldson, 2nd impression, 1976, 448 pages - if one counts an overly long and unnecessarily complex index.

This is one of the worst, dry-as-burnt-toast biographies I have ever suffered. I find British royal biographers frequently do this type of job, but never have I seen one so haphazardly thrown together. They did more work on the 10 pages that comprise the index, and that is as complicated as a legal text (which an index should not be).

Never wanting to browbeat the hard labor of a fellow writer, I have to say Lady Frances really did an excellent job of transcribing private letters here. I calculate roughly 80% of this biography consists of transcriptions of other people's letters - and not all of them have to do directly with the Duke of Windsor. That is nothing more than sheer laziness on the part of any biographer, and Lady Frances gets my goat because she admits it by prefacing each transcript with words to the effect of, "Let Such-and-so speak for themselves."

The Duke of Windsor, as disliked as he and his wife were by my entire family, has always been a quasi-admirable and certainly interesting figure. He suffered and screwed up, like any human being; he was also an innovative genius with the weak-yet-wicked artistic temperament to prove it. Colorful and eccentric as hell. The Duchess of Windsor, always deeply controversial and quite thoroughly hated, is essentially 'air-brushed' into the biography and I know half the facts about her are missing.

Lady Frances does a wonderful job of causing the reader to lose interest in all of it, because she shares none of it. It is definitely not what a biographer must achieve. This biography is a color-by-numbers layout of inane, ennui-inducing details and nothing more. The most colorful chapters of the Duke's life - the abdication and the subsequent life he led - are virtually ignored despite the topics having entire chapters of their own. Lady Frances merely skates merrily along with her transcriptions others' correspondence.

While I found the facts perfectly sound, I also found them so basic and simple as to be perfectly inadequate. It is my wish to find other, newer biographies that address the Duke's abdication and life thereafter. Anything prior to his coronation ought to be enjoyed via biographies of King George V and Queen Mary (i.e., George V's Children by John van der Kiste). Anything about his year as King Edward VIII is easy enough to recount in a few paragraphs - or a book might be devoted to the topic quite handily by a competent author.

Lady Frances Donaldson, in my view, utterly soured this biography, which might have been THE definitive biography of the Duke of Windsor. In fact, Lady Frances' work ought to have been the definitive biography. Essentially, this thing is a doorstop. Don't waste the money unless you can get a copy for a few dollars and a real stickler for every little boring, insignificant by-product of a person's life.

One favour you can do for yourself: get the excellent biographies King George V by Kenneth Rose, George Vi by Sarah Bradford (please see my review) and the absolutely gorgeous Victoria, R.I. by the immortal Elizabeth Longford (if you can get it cheaply). Also I highly recommend the beautiful and colorful Elizabeth R. : " The Role Of The Monarchy Today " by Antony Jay.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 3, 2012 1:10 AM BST


Worried About The Boy [DVD]
Worried About The Boy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Douglas Booth
Price: 5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Gay men think you're too much." -Marilyn, 10 July 2012
This review is from: Worried About The Boy [DVD] (DVD)
WORRIED ABOUT THE BOY (a/k/a Karma Caméléon, 2012, Dir. Julian Jarrold, 92 minutes, UK original screening May, 2010) is a classy biopic about a true hero of mine, George O'Dowd. We all know him as Boy George. Sadly confined to only a few years' time, this classy, well-executed and artful work is probably the only Boy George biopic I will live to see - thus I am ecstatic about it.

And it is the best biopic of its kind.

Beginning in Boy George's youth in 1980 (he's played by a far too short/skinny Douglas Booth, who is a Johnny Depp clone), this pings back and forth between the five unsettled years when music was super-hot and the artists were just the opposite. Until the other side of that timeline, when Boy George brought true beauty and innovation to music. In 1980, however, Boy George is trying his best, but he can't seem to break out and move beyond his 'fashion photo' appearances.

He meets Steve Strange (Marc Warren, a Strange clone!), who gives him his first job as coat-checker at Strange's Blitz Club. Pinging forward in time, we see the Boy under what is apparently house arrest, though I couldn't tell. From the date shown in the film (mid-1980s), he had just left Culture Club and I do not really recall him being in trouble with the law then. That part is completely confusing, but then I do not live in England.

Backward in time - 1980 - he meets a cocky and corrosive Jon Moss (Matthew Horne), who as we all know will be Culture Club's controversial drummer boy. But in 1980, he was just another smart-ass kid. Odd that in this film Jon, who was quite handsome and very short, should be almost as tall as Boy George and quite ugly in comparison. That is just one of the inexplicable screw-ups here that put me off a little. It is as bad as the almost miscast Douglas Booth, who unlike Boy George is rather short, rail thin and beautiful ... in another way than Boy George is.

And almost every actor here is obviously ten or twelve years too old.

In other words, somehow I didn't 'feel' it. Don't get me wrong: everyone is BRILLIANT, with classy, powerful acting and a touching bunch of moments in time are artfully presented. The trouble is, this life and music, the clothes and attitude, take me back to my youth. As I said, the performers didn't make me 'feel' it.

I'd murder for a CD of the soundtrack (and this also makes me want to get the Bow Wow Wow songs that George sang).

Don't let my grumpy mood discourage you. If you want to really be immersed in the world that gave birth to Boy George, if you want to learn about him, if you really don't want to hurt him, then get this beautiful film.

With the added talents of Francis Magee as George's beloved father Jerry, Freddie Fox, Richard Madden, and Mark Gatiss as the legendary Malcolm McLaren.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2013 10:06 AM GMT


The File on the Tsar
The File on the Tsar
by Anthony Summers
Edition: Paperback

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The compelling side of WWI, monarchy and tragedy, 23 Feb 2012
This review is from: The File on the Tsar (Paperback)
THE FILE ON THE TSAR (2002 edition) by Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold is quite the little book. It is a good, clean and scholarly work dedicated to studying the horrid tale of the execution of the last Czar of Russia and his family. In fact, it endeavors to examine the possibility that at least the Czarina and the children escaped the slaughter that has been peddled more or less successfully to the public for so long.

This book carefully dissects various documents and even letters and diaries, piecing together a compelling story about how not only Germany but also England may have planned - even attempted to execute - rescue plans for the Romanov Imperial Family. Did they fail? Is it possible at least part of someone's plan came to fruition?

The authors do a terrific job piecing this story together - they even address Anna Manahan, who was alleged to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Note that only the 2002 edition of this book contains a postscript with some deeply moving facts about the DNA testing on the alleged Romanov remains from the Koptyaki Forest. Some scientists don't agree that the testing was properly done. A few don't believe those remains belong to the Romanovs.

Interesting chapters include one on various claimants who have surfaced, and the very next chapter is about Anna. These authors do not argue a case for her or against her - but they find so many inconsistencies with the accepted DNA findings and Anna's life story that they wonder aloud whether or not she was Anastasia. But that is only one chapter.

This book will thrill you with true stories of intrigues, duplicity that can never be pinned down to the responsible parties, Bolshevik and imperialist propaganda and lies, the whole ugly tamale that gave us a fascinating propaganda pastiche that we continue to accept without a word of wonder. The authors researched this book to perfection, and I am especially appreciative of the notes and bibliography. It is that scholarship that moved the authors to wonder why the public simply accepts everything Russia tells us.

The food for thought here has not been changed by any DNA findings. As I said, the book traces a chain of facts that will lead you to wonder about DNA and its validity in this case. There is no way an interested reader can claim a working knowledge of any of these subjects without having read THE FILE ON THE TSAR - and be certain to get the 2002 edition.


The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero
The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero
by William Kalush
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Never say fail!"---and this book never does, 27 Oct 2011
THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI: THE MAKING OF AMERICA'S FIRST SUPERHERO (2006) by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, New York, ATRIA books, 591 pages.

This is truly the greatest biography of Harry Houdini that has ever been written. Working from millions of pages of material, the authors give the finest account of Houdini's life, skills, accomplishments and impact. If there are two things slightly amiss here, they are simple: the title should have been kept short, and the personality of Houdini should have been better described (i.e., the authors never even agree on the color of Houdini's eyes, which were coincidentally the same color as mine).

The animadventures of Houdini's parents, which would lead to his successes, is outlined with loving care and accuracy. Houdini trained at a circus, with acrobats, contortionists, magicians and escape artists starting at age 12. By the time he was 20, he was performing great shows and would soon serve as a ('lay'?) policeman, and as a spy for the Secret Service. The disgusting Spiritualist movement and its probable responsibility for the death of Houdini is explored - and it is at that juncture this book becomes a haunting, addicting read.

As an example of the book's thoroughness - and seeming controversy of that thoroughness - here and only here you'll read about the fight to the death between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini. This may feel wrong to the English reader; yet the exposé is intense and accurate. Doyle had wanted Houdini to be the Spiritualist poster boy; Houdini was keeping Sir Arthur at arm's length. Houdini wanted to believe, but he had no sympathy for frauds.

Their friendship destroyed, both men went on the warpath, but Doyle's conduct is a disgrace. What is not commonly known is Houdini suffered at least two previous assassination attempts. Were these the work of Sir Arthur? Not only is Sir Arthur convincingly implicated in Houdini's death; the biography demonstrates the cynical way in which Sir Arthur pursued Houdini's widow Bess to join the cause after Houdini died (he referred to her in a disparaging way as "the widow"). Lonely, alcohol- and drug-addicted, Bess went along with any fakery proposed to her until she could take it no more.

Harry Houdini is a deserved global icon. He singlehandedly invented spycraft as we understand it - including his invention of the disposable one-time camera - and put it to good use prior to (and during) WWI. Houdini created strides in law enforcement and penology that were second only to the original work of Vidocq.

He laid the foundations of modern stage illusion, magic, even film stunt work. He served as an inspiration for, and was a lifelong friend of, Buster Keaton's (legend has it that Houdini gave Buster the nickname). Houdini's sad, agonizing death, likely at the hands of a Spiritualist-hired assassin, will leave you weeping.
Though I am refreshed by the pure information in the book, it is a minor irritant that there is not one single note or even a decent bibliography here - which I view as heresy. Instead, the authors opted to publish their notes online, and I will not go digging for them. I promise, by the time you get to page 13, you will not want to go digging either.

The book is too good and if I may contradict myself, frankly it is refreshing to keep the notes and annoying footnotes out of the way.

Erik "Harry" Weisz, a handsome, caring boy, the rabbi's son, grew to be an amateur scientist, the first scientific 'paranormal researcher', an inventor, author, engineer, machinist, spymaster, police/prison consultant, exposer of frauds, lobbyist for new American "anti-psychic fraud" laws, film producer and star, Secret Service Agent, spy and master illusionist (he made an elephant disappear in the middle of a circus ring, in my opinion his greatest trick).

To say he was a mere magician is an insult. He has inspired countless characters, undeservedly cheesy films have been made of his life, and everyone always fouls the details of his sad, untimely death.

This is the book to read to get all the details.
This is the book about that great man who came to be known as HOUDINI.


People vs George Lucas, The (BR) OmU Min: 93DD eingl.dt UTWS [Import germany]
People vs George Lucas, The (BR) OmU Min: 93DD eingl.dt UTWS [Import germany]
Offered by mecodu-uk
Price: 13.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful, 18 Oct 2011
THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS (2010, 93 minutes) is a delightful, occasionally infuriating documentary in the purely interview style. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Limited Edition, Includes Theatrical Version) [DVD] fans from around the globe, executives, a few people in show business discuss in a most passionate way George Lucas' perceived betrayal of his fans.

By far the largest influence in the room here is Francis Ford Coppola, who mostly bemoans the fact that Lucas was somehow cowed into becoming an obnoxious, selfish billionaire.

Is Lucas all that obnoxious and selfish? With the points discussed in this documentary, one would think that is all Lucas is - niggling fans in heated discussions about the racism of the character Jar-Jar Binks is an example of one of the things that would drive any person to drink/suicide.

I agree with the excellent reviewer here who was embarrassed by the displays of idiotic passion, and I can only hope I read that review correctly. Someone else in the documentary commented that perhaps the public made Lucas feel he could only ever do STAR WARS or else do nothing at all. The documentary handles, in neatly titled 'chapters', all the hardest criticisms and suspicions aimed at George Lucas. Well deserved, yes. A bit hysterical and over-the-top, yes. Honest, yes.

A huge pie was successfully slapped in Lucas' face when the farrago of the restoration of the original STAR WARS trilogy was compared to Lucas' 1988 testimony before Congress. His testimony was against Tim Turner for wanting to colorize black and white films.

Of course, the truth is in the word "FILM". The documentary asks a challenging question and everyone seems to have an answer: does STAR WARS belong to Lucas, or to the world, or as one fellow put it, "to the ages"? Lucas' biggest sin, we are told, is his claim the original STAR WARS negative was destroyed. Everyone says it was deliberately done (ahem, proof please!) and everyone hates him for the improvements he made to his films when remastering them.

When fans saw the changes he'd made, a new chapter of Lucas-hating was born. Let me stop right here and offer a newsflash: people do not go into film to be great artists or Mother Teresa. They go in to do two things: fulfill a selfish dream/make money. If money is the dream, then it's two birds with one stone.

George Lucas is no different, and why should he be? Was he a director, or the replacement for Rev. Martin Luther King? Think about that as you enjoy this crazy, hilarious and very deep examination of a modern artist who has apparently been stripped of the title ... by the very fans who made him and love him. This great documentary will show you all the angles and opinions. My only hope is that people may develop a healthier attitude about the films after seeing this documentary. Here we have another reviewer of the documentary, demanding Lucas release DVDs of the original trilogy of films in original form.

Hey, pal, I'd like that too, but I think Lucas has made it clear he won't do that because in the case of the original film, he can't. As Lucas has indicated, as to the original-condition trilogy, no cigar. My guess is that in all matters Lucas, Lucas is going to win, even if we are made to feel like C3PO at the chess game with Chewbacca.

I was there, as an adult, in 1977 to see the original STAR WARS, and I love it as much or more than ever. In 1999, I went to see Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace [DVD] [1999] for the same reason I went to see the original STAR WARS. I was satisfied, though slightly annoyed by Jar-Jar Binks ... but as this documentary indicates, kids loved him, and still love him, so Lucas may have been on target regardless of nutty old fans.

An intrepid Lucas-hater (from America) tells me this: "That the negatives were disintegrating was never in question; the idea that he couldn't have preserved them before tinkering with it all and then claiming they've been destroyed is. Your Han Solo footie pajamas are showing." Clever. Also a sad demonstration of the way this is not an isolated phenomenon revealed only in the documentary. It is in our own homes and neighborhoods. It is on Amazon as well.

This documentary will remind you of one thing more than anything: STAR WARS is deservedly beloved by all. That can never change. One day, Lucas, as will all of us, be gone and forgotten. STAR WARS will live! Meanwhile I deeply recommend this documentary so that at least the facts about Lucas' public position can be at hand. Like him or hate him, you'll enjoy this informative and lively documentary that speaks to all points STAR WARS.


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