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Jerry Dowlen (Kent, England)

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"Orestes" (Wave Crest Classics)
"Orestes" (Wave Crest Classics)
by Euripides
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Rhythm!, 12 Jun 2006
Michael is to be congratulated upon the light, readable and rhythmic touch that he brings to this retelling of a tale by the playwright Euripides of Athens.

Until I saw this neat and attractively-packaged little book I never imagined that reading the Greek Classics could be so enjoyably easy. This value-for-money light translation seems to be admirably suited for students, drama groups and for anyone who always wanted to explore the Classics but feared that the stories might be too difficult and deep.

I especially like the introduction in which Michael summarises the play and he highlights the main themes. He offers some thought-provoking discussion points for the reader or the classroom to consider, too. This is followed by Michael's lilting and rhythmic verse translation that is easy on the ear, gets your foot tapping and makes you want to read on and see how the story unfolds!
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Graham Bond: The Mighty Shadow
Graham Bond: The Mighty Shadow
by Harry Shapiro
Edition: Perfect Paperback

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holy Magick, 28 May 2006
If you bark the name Graham Bond at me, I will instantly think of the large, bearded man whose eye-catching photograph and article captured my attention when I opened my copy of the International Times ("IT") magazine in September 1969.

Clad in flowing robes, beads around his neck, this man cut a striking figure as he beamed out from the lead article that set forth his confidently-articulated personal philosophies of breathing, life, death, destiny, the law of the universe, and the Age of Aquarius.

This seemed fair enough, for IT was the bible of the late 1960s hippie or underground scene, a movement that had its pretty adornments of flower-power, kaftans and bells but also had a deeper - and sometimes darker - involvement in mind-expanding drugs, mysticism and alternative religions.

But could we accept a beached-up R&B musician suddenly inserting himself so flamboyantly into our midst? "Look at me, I'm a guru," he was saying. "Graham who?" we were silently responding.

Oh, we knew the name all right. In the mid-1960s the four-man Graham Bond Organisation had achieved some minor visibility with appearances on television (Ready Steady Go) and radio (Saturday Club, etc). They had toured the country as a support act to big stars such as Chuck Berry, and had gigged at numerous small clubs and halls in their own right. But, talented jazz and blues players though they were, their recordings of R&B standards like 'Hoochie Coochie Man', 'High Heeled Sneakers' and 'Long Tall Sally' had made no impact in the UK charts, and had never led them to fame and riches under the Graham Bond flag.

As is recounted in Harry Shapiro's riveting biography 'The Mighty Shadow', Bond's gatecrashing of the psychedelic music scene in 1969 was an audacious stroke that was aimed at relaunching his solo career after an unproductive sojourn in the USA. Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, ex-members of the Organisation, had made the big time after joining Eric Clapton to form Cream. Bond had fallen into the wilderness meanwhile.

Harry Shapiro begins the Graham Bond story by tracking down his subject's troubled childhood in late 1940s Romford. After that, the author develops the tale most informatively and enthrallingly as the youthful Bond's enthusiastic and accomplished playing of the saxophone leads into a fringe pop and blues musical career that had very few highlights and was in large part a saga of self-indulgence and self-destruction.

As an exercise in 1960s R&B nostalgia this book is a delight, rolling back the years to remind us of performers such as John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, John Coltrane, Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, Harold McNair and Zoot Money.

Unable to make it in the industry as a front-name after his 1969 new band Incarnation failed to last the pace, Bond became a bit-player in other bands such as Ginger Baker's Airforce. He assembled his own band Holy Magick in 1971, but his life and career were slowly collapsing into oblivion.

Bond's tragic death in 1974 - an apparent suicide - gave rise to rumours and theories that some say were never properly examined and explained at the time. Bond was obsessively interested in the occult. Inevitably, word went around that the circumstances of his death were suspicious.

To learn the final truth of the life and death of 'The Mighty Shadow' you need to read Harry Shapiro's engaging and meticulously-researched book. I recommend this book very highly, and I'm thrilled to hear that it is recently back in print (contact the author) after having been published originally in 1992.

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
by Peter Hoeg
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars V.I. Warshawski Does Greenland, 28 May 2004
This book put me greatly in mind of Sara Paretsky’s crime stories featuring her lady detective V.I. Warshawski.
Miss Smilla, the 37-year old heroine of Peter Hoeg’s 410-page story, isn’t paid by any client to embark upon the marathon investigation of the mysterious death of a ten-year old child. Hers is a self-appointed crusade. But Smilla adopts the trademark V.I. Warshawski single-minded, gutsy approach to unravelling the truth. A trump card for Smilla is her seemingly superhuman power of pain-tolerance – derived, we are told from her upbringing and her scientific fieldwork in the sub-zero climes of Greenland.
This book isn’t so much an entertainment as an examination paper. For you the reader it’s a test of your mental and physical stamina. The plot unfolds as slowly as a tortoise dosed with valium. And your long drawn-out voyage towards page 410 will frequently require you to break off from the plot and absorb dense slabs of information about engineering, forensic surgery, meteorology and other such daunting topics.
If you can stay the very demanding course and fit the whole jigsaw together you’ll no doubt feel rewarded. The hold-back and gradual revelation of the story’s ultimate secret – the real reason for the plotters’ clandestine voyage to West Greenland – is skilfully handled by the author. I can give the book one star for this. For me the most seductive aspect of the book is its locational settings in Copenhagen and Greenland, and the author’s fine descriptive writing in this regard. That earns a second star from me.

The Whitworth Gun
The Whitworth Gun
by John Whitworth
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Fine Words", 16 July 2003
This review is from: The Whitworth Gun (Paperback)
Wordsmith Whitworth Writes With Wit! A very enjoyable read. There are poems to make you laugh, to make you cry and to make you think. There are rolling rhythms and eye-catching arrays of words and alliteration.
My favourite poems are "The Making of Angels" and "The Fifth Angel" (the latter very imaginative, with famous personalities making visitations as you lie in your bed).

Very reminiscent of the poet Gavin Ewart, in style and form - especially Ewart's trademark of spinning a poem out of a topical news story or out of an incident or a personality from the past.
The phrase "Fine Words Butter No Parsnips" has always fascinated my wife and myself after we found it in an English language text book. Full marks to John Whitworth for making use of it in one of his poems!

Dial M For Murder [VHS]
Dial M For Murder [VHS]
Offered by stephensmith_426
Price: 12.90

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars " There's Just One More Question, Sir", 14 July 2003
This review is from: Dial M For Murder [VHS] (VHS Tape)
For me this is a classic: a masterpiece of dialogue, plot and suspense. Let me echo all the favourable comments made by the other reviewers and then, in addition, please let me highlight the performances by John Williams (Chief Inspector Hubbard) and Anthony Dawson (Swan / Capt. Lesgate). Hubbard, for me, absolutely MAKES the film and even steals it from Milland's assured and commanding performance. And Swan / Capt. Lesgate is portrayed with just the right touch of seediness - he's another of those type of characters who was often found in a Graham Greene novel.

The Man Who Fell To Earth [VHS]
The Man Who Fell To Earth [VHS]
Offered by dyerwilliams
Price: 4.99

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Roeg's Double Bluff is a Win! Win!, 24 Jun 2003
It was a teasing double bluff by Nicholas Roeg, the British film director, to cast David Bowie in the title role of his mind-bending masterpiece "The Man Who Fell To Earth".
Having created his androgynous Ziggy Stardust persona during the early 1970's, Bowie on the face of it was a perfect choice for the part. But, was there a danger that Bowie had stamped on us a too indelible image of himself as Glam Rock fashion icon? Would we, the cinema-visiting public, be able to accept him and see him properly in the different guise of Mr Newton the self-contained, bespectacled, business-suited alien visitor from space?
Roeg had gambled and won a few years earlier, when he put the pop star Mick Jagger into the co-lead role of "Performance" (1970). Jagger was convincing in his then unaccustomed role of a movie actor - and like Bowie he portrayed an ambiguous and confused character. "Performance" was the film that put Roeg on the map. It was followed by "Walkabout" (1971), "Don't Look Now" (1973) and then "The Man Who Fell To Earth" (1976). All of these startling and vividly colourful films have become legends of post-war British cinema. The films share the same ingredients and qualities: they are breathtaking, disjointed, distracting, disturbing, hallucinating, haunting, provocative, refractive and spellbinding.
Bowie has no cutlass, parrot or pigtails, but as he wanders through Middle America he is the epicene, emaciated, marmalade-haired space-pirate. What is the purpose of his mission on Earth? His laconic mumbling betrays few secrets, but occasional clues are provided. We learn that his own planet will soon be doomed, because of drought. He states that he is interested in energy. But the plot is largely baffling, and hard to follow. (One critic has called all of Roeg's plots "infuriating").
In all four of his above-mentioned films, and particularly in "The Man Who Fell To Earth", Roeg juxtaposes time and place. Within the numerous, often bewildering flashbacks and flashforwards in time, we see dreamy glimpses of Bowie, his wife and two children shrouded in a chrysalis-like gauze, hugging and walking on their arid and flat planet. The soundtrack hisses silently, like gas escaping from the twin-canisters that are strapped to their backs. These little interludes exemplify a Roeg trademark: the discordant chapters and scenes in his films are paradoxically interspersed with serene, picturesque moments where Roeg allows the camera to linger on a visually-stunning image (tall buildings, lakes, landscapes, mountains, wildlife, sky).
My instinct tells me that a painstaking study and understanding of the plot-puzzle wouldn't be an essential task, to secure enjoyment of "The Man Who Fell To Earth". Better perhaps to allow the vivid images and impressions to sear into my brain, and to overlook the obscure, rambling and apparently inconsequential sequences of action and dialogue that elongate this strange, uneven film. Better too, I suggest, to enjoy the performances of the two main characters. It's an open question: does Candy Clark, the hotel maid and eventual consort of Mr Newton, steal the show from Bowie with her compelling portrayal of the booze-addicted, simple-minded Southern gal, Mary Lou? I suspect that she does.
The first time that I saw this film, I was entranced from the opening minute. But the first sequence that really blew my mind was Bowie stacking the multiple television sets in his hotel room, all tuned to different channels. In fact, there are two such sequences in the film. Another electrifying moment is when Clark jumps out of her skin, and so do we, when Bowie appears to unpeel his eye, in front of the bathroom mirror, and he then transmogrifies into his true, hitherto hidden body. But my candidate for perhaps the most arresting sequence of all in the film is Bowie and Clark's sex-romp to the blaring soundtrack remix of Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou". A shooting pistol and a banana serve as sex-symbols here, but the real shock-effect of this episode is its stark and saddening revelation that Bowie and Clark are going to end the story as hopeless alcoholics and losers. She has become a bloated, befuddled lush: and he has become a fading, failing Icarus.
This explosive sequence is immediately followed by a bizarre one in which Bowie and Clark, dressed in whites, calmly play table tennis in a room that seems to be a forest. This surreal scene seems to belong more in a Ken Russell movie: Roeg and Russell of course were contemporary enfant terribles of British cinema in the 'seventies. Their controversial, barrier-breaking movies were feted with praise or condemned from the pulpits. Russell, too, raided the pop world: Roger Daltrey played the lead in two of his films.
When Ziggy Stardust, glittering costume, orange-streaked hair, was at his zenith, I had to credit my wife Nancy for some gentle debunking of the Bowie myth. Nancy imagined him backstage, the audience's adulation ringing in his ears after another spectacular god-like performance. "Oh gawd, Angie, help me off with these bloody Space Boots, they don't half pinch my feet. I could die for a cup of tea, luv". Curiously, there are moments in "The Man Who Fell To Earth" when Mr Newton relaxes with Mary Lou, puts his feet up, lets down his inscrutable mask and becomes an ordinary bloke for a moment or two. It's yet another tantalising facet of this extraordinary, nervous, unforgettable movie.

Flaming Star [VHS]
Flaming Star [VHS]
Offered by Discountdiscs-UK : Dispatched daily from the UK.
Price: 3.88

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Elvis COULD act! This film proves it., 24 Jun 2003
This review is from: Flaming Star [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I saw "Flaming Star" for the first time ever in June 2003! I can now agree with the other reviewers who have said that Elvis's films "Flaming Star", "King Creole" and "Wild in the Country" demonstrate that he truly had what it takes to be a really good actor in movies. I think that his efforts in "Follow That Dream" and "Kid Galahad" were quite respectable too. All of these movies had their flaws, but they had redeeming features too. In "Flaming Star" all the best moments, I reckon, come in the first half of the movie when the plot is taut, the acting and the dialogue is convincing, and the tension builds. Somehow though it seems to sag and then to peter out as though the author (who co-wrote the screenplay) didn't really know what to do with and how to end the story that had built up so promisingly at the halfway point. There are two songs in the film but in all my years of listening to pop music (since 1961) I don't think I've ever heard either of them played on the radio or anywhere! "Flaming Star" (sung by Elvis over the opening credits) is OK - a bit of a formula Elvis song - and "A Cane and a Starched White Collar" is a relaxed and colourful whoop-it-up piece of country dancing that is squeezed into the first five minutes of the film - get the music out of the way and then on with the serious stuff! When it was released, "Flaming Star" apparently received quite a lukewarm reception from most of the the critics and it seems to have gone down in history as a mediocre and rather muddled effort. I doubt that anyone would remember it or give it a second thought nowadays, if Elvis hadn't been in it. But on the whole I found it to be a better film than I was expecting to see.

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