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Richard Masloski (New Windsor, New York USA)

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The Shining Scene-by-Scene
The Shining Scene-by-Scene
by John David Ebert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.24

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars DISAPPOINTING & DULL, 6 Nov. 2015
Anyone who would read this book more than likely already knows the storyline of Kubrick's THE SHINING, and most probably backwards and forwards. So why is the bulk of this book comprised of probably near 70% synopsis? It is padding, pure and simple, and makes for a terrific yawn to read as well. The author's philosophic insights, if distilled from the book's entirety, would amount to a short essay and fill perhaps ten pages at best.

But not only is the needless scene-by-scene synopsis irksome. There are errors of interpretation and fact as well. Examples: on page 49 the author writes that, after being shown the living quarters in the Overlook where the Torrances will reside, that "the Torrances seem pleased." Well, actually no. They seem...embarrassed! Especially after having just toured the rest of the lavish and opulent Overlook where "all the best people" sojourned throughout the years. Not only are they obviously embarrassed when they tell Ullman the small rooms are "cozy" and "homey", but the last comments in this scene are made by the Torrances whilst standing in the bathroom wherein, of course, Wendy will be locked and scared near to death as Jack breaks through the door with his axe. Notice also that when they see the bathroom for the first time, Jack looks down at the shower-curtain hid bathtub which will later - in another room - play a huge role in his erotic fantasy of a better life. To view the Torrances as "pleased" misses the point of this scene entirely.

On page 60, the author informs us the Steadicam was "invented specifically for Kubrick's film." But this is simply not true. Garrett Brown's Steadicam was first used in 1976's BOUND FOR GLORY, some years before it was used in THE SHINING. What was new in Kubrick's film was the innovation of using the Steadicam to shoot from very near the floor in the scenes following Danny riding around on his tricycle. But, again, it wasn't specifically invented for THE SHINING as we are led to believe by this author.

On page 84, the author tells us that once Danny is subsumed by Tony, Danny's "normal personality does not resurface for the rest of the film." Actually, however, it does. The old Danny comes back right after the revelation of the REDRUM enigma.

On page 99, in describing the immediate aftermath of the argument over Danny between Jack and Wendy, the author says that as "he storms angrily out of the apartment, Jack glares menacingly at the camera..." Actually, he doesn't actually look at the camera, but just beyond it - and what he is looking at with hate-filled eyes is Danny's bedroom - with his son in it!

On page 112 we are told that in the scene at Durkin's Auto Supply we first see Larry Durkin "climbing out of a car" - and this is simply not the case. The owner of Durkin's is first seen at the driver side window of a car whose driver either stopped for gas or directions or both.

Page 125 tells us that "Wendy is asleep on the bed with Danny, who presently climbs out of it, chanting the word 'Redrum'." But Danny is not on the bed with his mother at the beginning of this scene.

In brief, if one is going to devote a preponderance of pages to a dull and largely needless recounting of a movie's storyline, at least be sure that the details are accurate. In the author's interpretation of the film as a whole, he leans heavily towards the notion that the ghostly, evil forces of the Overlook take over a rather normal man to use for their own nefarious ends. The fact that Jack Torrance already has latent homicidal tendencies is hardly analyzed within the narrow focus of the book's primary premise. In short, this book is - at best - a short, none-too-informative essay stretched to a short book-length that is overbalanced with a plodding recounting of the actual movie's storyline and therefore amounts to a basic bore.

Studies in the Horror Film: Stanley Kubrick's the Shining
Studies in the Horror Film: Stanley Kubrick's the Shining
by Tony Magistrale
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DON'T OVERLOOK THIS BOOK!!!!!!!, 24 Aug. 2015
Why is Stanley Kubrick's film THE SHINING the voguish vortex that it has become over the decades, since its first appearance on the silver scream-screen in 1980? Why is it so loved and embraced by so many? What is the reason for the mystic chord that binds and pulls myriad movie mavens to this horror film? It speaks to them in symbols and secrets which they then decode and deliver unto us, the supposedly uninitiated, the baffled and perplexed - even though many of their readings of the film are more off-the-wall than anything in the actual Overlook Hotel itself! (One reading has THE SHINING as Kubrick's secret confession for having faked the moon landing.) And because Stanley Kubrick has a overly inflated reputation for being a perfectionist in his films, his movie mistakes are mistakenly interpreted by his acolytes as having much more meaning than Kubrick ever intended. (Perhaps, though, he would have ultimately preferred his mistakes to be re-imagined as artistic intentions.) But mistakes were made in his movies! He was NOT perfect. One only need watch the first shot inside Claire Quilty's mansion in the opening of LOLITA to see the major mistake of someone - perhaps Kubrick himself! - quickly leaving the scene before the entrance of James Mason. Unless, of course, Kubrick's over-arching plan all along was for his films to be viewed as a canon, as chapters in a book rather than simply individual films. In this interpretation, coming events cast their shadows before. Perhaps the ghostly figure in the beginning of LOLITA is NOT a mistake at all, but rather a precognitive, subconsciously generated image of the ghost of a guest from the Overlook Hotel, the lost soul of a perpetual party-goer popping up at the Overlook's 1921 Fourth of July party and then haunting Quilty's gothic mansion decades later. Wait! Hold the phone and freeze the frame! Is that possibly Jack Torrance himself hurrying out of the scene, leaving an evil whiff of his influence for Humbert Humbert to inhale and thus follow in the murderous footsteps of Grady and Torrance and all killers whose dark destiny in Life is to celebrate Death?

There are mistakes in THE SHINING as well. Continuity errors and even questionable approaches to the direction. Why have ominous music playing before Danny on his bike turns a corner and sees the Grady ghosts? The same with the scene wherein he first sees them: why the tip-off music and the phony zoom shot onto his face as he sees them before we do? Why the Spirit Store skeletons in the lobby that Wendy sees that look like something out of any Halloween haunted house attraction? In Vivian Kubrick's "Making of..." documentary, Stanley is seen adamantly insisting to a brow-beaten Shelley Duvall that what she is doing with her character in a certain scene looks fake. Well, someone should have had the courage to tell him that the corpse dummies in the lobby looked fake! And didn't add, but rather detracted from the ghostly ambiance he labored so to create. And why are ALL the lights ALWAYS on in the Overlook? Didn't the Torrances consider - before they all went batty - Ullman's electric bill once he returned to reopen the place come spring? Why would 70 year old Dick Hallorann cross the country in plane, car, snowcat and on foot and go to the Overlook in a blizzard knowing well enough of the probable dangers in store and NOT take any help with him? Larry Durkin probably would have accompanied him if asked! He looked like a powerful backup to take along! And simply as a horror movie, I never found any of it frightening, despite Kubrick's avowed intent to make the scariest horror film ever. No, it was always too much The Jack Show for it to ever be taken seriously. Jack Nicholson and Jack Torrance were way all over the place, and to me that both made the film - and also diminished it. Anyway...

Despite it all, I love the movie! Even though that love is a bit like Jack T's purported love of 'the little s.o.b.' that is his son. And having this love/hate relationship to the movie is actually a mirror to the movie and its many messages itself - and the movie is replete with mirror images, reflections, doublings, contrasts. The movie is about love and hate, life and death, warmth and cold, all of the contrasts that make life the conundrum that it will always be - and even, most likely, will continue to be once we ourselves pass over. Contrasts, yes. So we have Hallorann's first appearance as he walks from the same direction that Grady's ghost will later come from and collide with Jack. But the cook is all about life and health and being happy by staying regular with prunes. This is why he talks to the mother and child in the kitchen, in the food storage, amongst the very staffs of life - whereas Grady talks to Jack in the toilet after having spilled and soiled the man carrying the soul he and the Overlook aim to steal. Life and Death, the Kitchen and the Crapper. "Great party, isn't it?" even though the ghost who says this has a split, bloodied head!

This book is magisterial! It is beautifully designed and published, handsome and hefty to hold. It is overflowing with insights, interviews, photographs and then some. I only wish that Danny Lloyd had taken part in this epic production. A map of the Overlook would have been wonderful as well. But with Halloween fast approaching and then after that the cold and snow of a winter at the Overlook, I can think of no better book to curl up with and devour - even as it will undoubtedly be devouring you!

Stranger than Fiction: The Life of Edgar Wallace, the Man Who Created King Kong
Stranger than Fiction: The Life of Edgar Wallace, the Man Who Created King Kong
by Neil Clark
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Here is what I do NOT like about this book, 8 July 2015
Here is what I do NOT like about this book: the blatantly misleading and erroneous subtitle!

This from Wikipedia:

The King Kong character was conceived and created by U.S. filmmaker Merian C. Cooper.

And this from author Joe DeVito: "From what I know, Edgar Wallace, a famous writer of the time, died very early in the process. Little if anything of his ever appeared in the final story, but his name was retained for its saleability ... King Kong was Cooper's creation, a fantasy manifestation of his real life adventures."

Give credit where credit is truly due - as in the subtitle to Mark Cotta Vaz's sublime biography of Merian C. Cooper: LIVING DANGEROUSLY: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper - Creator of KING KONG

I'll repeat that: Merian C. Cooper - CREATOR OF KING KONG! To argue otherwise is tantamount to believing Carmen Nigro played King Kong!!!

How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth
How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth
by David Clarke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.14

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars CLARKE'S COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, 8 July 2015
Reading this book is probably an experiential equivalent to being in a strait jacket for several hours. Why do I say this? Because for whatever reasons author David Clarke - believing himself comprehensive in his approach -is anything but! Yes, there are millions of quacks in this world - but there are also many totally professional, on-the-money physicians who are the real thing! Clarke focuses his myopic attention, sadly, mostly on the quacks - and cracks - in the UFO story. Or when he addresses a hot topic, he drowns it in the cold water of his presumed logic first, watering it down so that it will better lend credence to his skeptic's premise regarding the man-made mystery of the UFO.

Here are some examples: In his Introduction, Clarke addresses NASA astronauts and their relationship to UFOs and knocks the generally held belief that astronauts have reported UFOs. He mentions Edgar Mitchell, the sixth human to have walked on the moon, as "one of those who have succumbed to the UFO syndrome." Rather snide, eh? Clarke then discusses Buzz Aldrin's sighting of a UFO and its probably prosaic explanation. However, never even whispered of is Gordon Cooper, one of the seven original Project Mercury astronauts, and his own UFO sightings and knowledge of photographed evidence that was sent to the Pentagon and never seen again. To his dying day, Cooper held fast to his conviction that the government "swept under the rug" all the hundreds of visual and radar sightings reported by fellow pilots. Here is another example that this book was written by an author in a strait-jacket of his own design: In his coverage of the famous UFO flap over Washington D.C. in 1952, Clarke writes that after blips were seen on radar "Aircraft were scrambled to intercept, but their crews saw nothing." This is simply not true. Even Wikipedia covers this still unexplained event far better than it is portrayed in this book. Here is another: In his analysis of the famous Rendlesham UFO incident, he informs readers of the prosaic explanations for the mystery lights as being a combination of stars, a fireball and a lighthouse - but fails to inform those same readers of the sighting of the purported landed craft by one of the US military personnel. As a matter-of-fact, former employee of the British Ministry of Defense, Nick Pope recently wrote a book about this incident - and curiously, given that David Clarke goes into the MoD UFO files in some depth, he never makes any mention of Nick Pope! Perhaps Nick Pope has been abducted? Another example of Clarke's attempted accentuation of the negative at the expense of the positive in his clear obsession in applying Occam's razor to everything and anything under the sun and moon: He highlights the hypnotic regressions in the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case, and tries to explain the recalled events as imaginative reconfigurations of popular culture imagery found in shows such as THE OUTER LIMITS and INVADERS FROM MARS, yet barely considers that the initial sighting of the UFO and its occupants by the Hills was a conscious happening, an event in real time and not hypnotic recall. One last example of Clarke's himself trying to conquer the world of UFOs and that is his open and shut answer to the Captain Mantell case wherein a pilot died chasing a UFO that Clarke has unequivocally mandated was a balloon. But, truth is, the jury is still out on that.

Clarke goes into the more modern alien abduction phenomenon, but timidly. Sleep paralysis is offered as a possible explanation for the experiencing of aliens and assorted entities, but the thing is it is all too easy to say the sleep paralysis episode is a product of the imagination. Indeed, the Imagi-nation may be just that - a Nation all its own. If Vallee's Third Realm and Keel's ultraterrestrial (multi-dimensional) worlds exist, who is to say that during an episode of sleep paralysis our consciousness isn't bridging two realms? If the aliens are, indeed, from another dimension, then perhaps they can enter our plane of existence as easily as we can dive into the ocean? On page 249 Clarke says that "in 2005 an independent group of American scientists insisted that recent advances in scientific knowledge had made the case for extraterrestrial visitations stronger not weaker" and that "ideas such as parallel universes and wormholes placed the extraterrestrial hypothesis back on the scientific agenda and that some evidence of the aliens' presence might be found in certain high-quality UFO reports." And then Clarke adds a most astonishing coda to this. He says "I worried this sort of open-ended speculation would ultimately lead us back to John Keel's ultraterrestrials." He worried??? Why would this be cause for Clarke to worry???? Because it would make him realize he couldn't contain the ocean in a bottle? What if it were the truth? What if all the current talk of bubble universes and multiverses and multiple dimensions were the ultimate reality? Life is on land and in the ocean, in the coldest and hottest recesses of this world. Might it not also, then, flourish in those other hypothetical realms? And might not the denizens of those other wavelengths of ultimate reality be able to access our space as easily as we are able to explore the ocean's depths and space's airless realms? Why would Clarke "worry" when absolute Truth may be at stake? On page 254 Clarke waxes ecstatic about scientific proof and declares: "Any theory that invokes supernatural forces cannot be disproved and is therefore incapable of advancing our understanding." I meet people and go places in dreams every night - yet can never bring back tangible proof from the people I've met and the places I've gone for testing in our limited labs! But...the dreams happened all the same. As for "supernatural forces" - why dismiss the supernatural, if it be simply the 'natural' that it not yet understood as such? Like accepting a round instead of a flat earth, to do so required a real stretch of one's concept of reality back in the day. Nonetheless, the round earth was the "real" reality and the flat earth the accepted consensus of what constituted reality back then, even though it was flat wrong - pun intended! Clarke goes on: "The extraterrestrial hypothesis may clothe itself in science but its logic is that of the supernatural, and as a result faulty conclusions naturally flow from it." Again, Clarke doesn't seem able to grasp that today's 'supernatural' may be tomorrow's 'natural.' In case Mr. Clarke also doesn't know, science cannot even explain Consciousness or the mystery of Time. How then can one expect it to account for the ultimate source of Consciousness and all of its experiences, especially those that cannot be put under a microscope? That is why I said that reading this book is like being in a strait-jacket. Yes, there are quacks and madmen and phonies and frauds and all sorts of nonsense involved with the UFO and any aspect of this bizarre thing called Life. But...there is much more to it all than meets the myopic eye. Or, to paraphrase the Bard, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Mr. Clarke, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 26, 2015 7:12 PM GMT

Fifty Shades of Grey: The Unseen Edition [DVD] [2015]
Fifty Shades of Grey: The Unseen Edition [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Jamie Dornan
Price: £4.00

26 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars NINE 1/2 YEARS, 22 Feb. 2015
In 1986 I saw a movie called NINE 1/2 WEEKS starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. Based on the bestselling book of the same title, written by Ingeborg Day using the pseudonym Elizabeth McNeill, it was the story of a boundary-stretching, BDSM fueled relationship between a man and a woman seeking to find in one another the ultimate depths and highs of life, lust and love. The male character is in charge, kinkily (much more than chivalrously) opening the door for the woman to all sorts of mental and bodily expanding experiences. He blindfolds her, buys a riding crop in a store while she stands in submissive silence as he tests the crack of it in the air, commands her to cross-dress and meet him in public, eats all sorts of food off her body and so forth - but by the end of it all, the lady has had enough sado-sexual stimulation and leaves the man who can hardly believe she has ultimately taken control. Sound familiar?

Watching this dull, dreary, drecky disaster of a film - which only clocks in at a bit over two hours - made me have innumerable flashbacks to NINE 1/2 WEEKS - but also made think a better name for FIFTY SHADES would have been NINE 1/2 YEARS...because that is how long the psychological running time seemed to me! Scene after similar scene endlessly unfolded before me and sadly my bag of popcorn was totally depleted about halfway through and I was thinking that if I had more, the movie could have perhaps been a bit more bearable. Yes, I could have gone to get a refill - but I didn't want to miss anything! It was only after the credits rolled that I realized there was never anything to actually miss at all. Anyway, I was thinking more of popcorn and NINE 1/2 WEEKS than the soap opera on the screen. While by no means a great movie and arguably not even a very good one, NINE 1/2 WEEKS at least had Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, actors who could actually act and who had a very palpable screen chemistry. I cannot say anywhere near the same for the leads in 50 SHADES. Elsewhere someone wrote that Jamie Dornan seems constipated throughout the film, and I couldn't agree more! Perhaps his kink, instead of whips and chains, should have been enemas. Dakota Johnson did the best with the sparse script given her, but it is still a vastly one note performance. I never for a single instant believed there was anything authentic between the two characters who the actors were tasked to breathe life into. The trouble, however, is ultimately with the silly situations and incredibly bad dialogue the actors were given. I doubt if any actors could truly make this dodo fly!

I have no idea if the estate of the late Ingeborg Day, the authoress of NINE 1/2 WEEKS, is contemplating a lawsuit for plagiarism - but perhaps it should! The entire theme, characterizations and story arc of E.L. James' work are identical to that of Day's book. And - get this - Mickey Rourke's kinky character's last name is - ready? - Gray! And how curious is it that both book titles have a numerical component? Coincidence, perhaps? Hardly.

Not having read the book and having only just seen the movie, I find it amazing how alarmists are ringing the warning bell about how the SM/BD content degrades women and condones violence against them. The film does nothing of the sort. For one thing, the supposedly titillating scenes of kinky sex exploration are so tame and lame that only someone who has lived in a closet for a large part of their lives would get an open-mouthed, heart-racing thrill from watching them. For example, in one scene Gray puts Anastasia over his lap and gives her three little love taps of the palm on her backside and says "Welcome to my world." Heck, he may as well have said "Welcome to Disneyland!" He's got a well stocked red room of pain but most all of its accessories are just for show - and not tell. Where be some hot wax or nipple clamps or pet collar and leash? Brando did more with butter in LAST TANGO IN PARIS than goofy Gray does with a room replete with perverse playstuff. And by the film's long hoped-for end, why does Anastasia leave Grey? Because of six hard applications of one of his toys to her bottom! She cares so much about him that she doesn't even bother to have a sincere, serious conversation with him about his kinky needs and emotional hangups! See, that's the problem with the script: these people don't talk, they text off their tongues. E.L. James wrote a trilogy that has been thoroughly trashed as literature and yet it spoke loud and clear to multitudes and raged like a wildfire through the hearts and minds and bodies of its mostly female readership - primarily because in the curious, magical dance twixt reader and writer the reader can imagine herself in and out of Anastasia's shoes and on Gray's knee or bondage rack. Tease and titillation is what turns the page - and moreso that crucial, central, most important thing of all - Imagination. But in turning fiction into flesh, what is truly needed to make the metamorphosis complete, to make the characters on a page come to actual life on the screen is dialogue that will amount to more than cartoon balloons floating above two dimensional heads. Speaking strictly of the movie now - and not the book - Christian Gray and Anastasia Steele are not characters at all. Not living, breathing, believable characters whatsoever. They are, instead, ciphers. Ciphers conjured to sell a much-hyped and hoped for movie.

As for the bondage and discipline, the master and submissive, the S & M of it all, those were just the selling points for the film. There is no serious or sincere searching of the true dynamic in a master/submissive relationship. Those elements were just exploited by the makers of this film to draw in the curious en masse. Whatever elements are used in the film are geared strictly for the naive. No, the promise of whips and chains is more akin to the carnival barker's shout-out to drop your coin and come in to see the World's Smallest Horse - and when you've been suckered in under the tent, there in the sawdust stands...a jackass! And then, sadly, the jackass becomes...a mirror.

So 50 SHADES OF GREY - the movie - is not about abusing women or excusing rape. If anything, Anastasia is the one in control, topping Christian from the bogus bottom. When all is said and done, 50 SHADES OF GREY is about the inevitable need for compromise in any relationship. Painting the picture broadly on an alleged sadomasochistic canvas is just the means to make graphic the message that every relationship, every encounter, every interpersonal dynamic is - to one degree or another - a power play that can destroy more than it can create if compromise isn't considered at some point during the game of life, lust and love.

One curious point in closing. As of this writing, on the Internet Movie Data Base, the film has only scored 4 points out of a possible 10, based on the voting of 56,500 viewers. Yet here on Amazon, the raves outnumber the rants by a considerable margin. Something to think about, indeed!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2015 5:50 PM GMT

Inventing Scrooge
Inventing Scrooge
Price: £16.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WHAT THE DICKENS????, 29 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Inventing Scrooge (Kindle Edition)
When I was in high school I had a history teacher who would sit at his desk and read aloud and very slowly from a book while we students sat for the entire period copying in our notebooks everything he read to us. That was this lame and lax teacher's method - but it wasn't truly teaching. It was transcribing.

Carlo Devito's INVENTING SCROOGE brought back unwelcome memories of that long gone ersatz teacher - for this slim volume is not so much written as transcribed. Quite clearly, all Mr. Devito did in the creation of his work was to cobble together long stretches of other authors' books on Dickens, contemporaneous letters from and about Dickens and long bits from A CHRISTMAS CAROL itself! If one were to boil down into actual pages those writ by Mr. Devito himself, it might amount to twenty or so pages out of the 235 that makeup this book. It is much more accurate to say that INVENTING SCROOGE is moreso compiled and crafted than authored and written.

There are other annoyances that indicate a haste and thoughtlessness in Mr. Devito's cobbling together of his spurious book. There is a longish passage transcribed on page 24. In reading page 34 I had an acute sense of deja vu - for there, indeed, was the exact same passage! On page 30 - in one of the rare sentences actually written by this author - he says that Dickens' sister "had gained a kind of notoriety" in her brother's eyes when she gave a musical performance at a concert for luminaries. In Dickens' quoted passage we find he tears up because he couldn't bear to think of himself "beyond the reach of all such honorable emulation and success." In other words, he was proud and also jealous of his sister's success. But for Devito to describe the sister's achievement as "a kind of notoriety" makes no sense. Notoriety is synonymous with infamy - so it seems our author used the wrong word here. And since there aren't truly all that many words in this book from the author himself, that's a revelatory faux pas. To continue, on page 43 we are informed by Mr. Devito that titling the book A CHRISTMAS CAROL was first and foremost in Dickens' mind and that Dickens "kept to the idea that it should be shaped like a carol in structure." Then in a Wikipedia-ish inspired two paragraphs we are provided a list of various popular carols and their dates of composition and some anachronistic usage of certain carols for modern day productions of the story - but we are given naught of how the actual A CHRISTMAS CAROL is "shaped like a carol in structure." Back to Wikipedia for a moment: way too much of INVENTING SCROOGE reads as dryly and pedantically as the entries for that online encyclopedia. Going forth, on page 187 Mr. Devito opines that "If rickets and malnutrition were the only culprits, Scrooge's intervention might not have been enough" to save Tiny Tim's life. He goes on to correctly inform us that things would have been more problematic if - in addition to those two treatable ailments just mentioned - Tiny Tim was also victim to TB. This is true. So the prior thought about Scrooge's intervention in fighting rickets and malnutrition possibly NOT being enough to turn the tide for Tiny Tim is ill-stated. Lastly, Mr. Devito's Prologue is quite a mess as well: his aim is to make us think we are reading about Charles Dickens himself taking to a stage to read from his book,when instead Mr. Devito is talking about the great-great grandson Gerald Dickens who likewise did as his luminous ancestor and took to the stage with readings from A CHRISTMAS CAROL. But this 'big reveal' is very clumsily, confusedly handled. A picture of Gerald on stage and in performance is also provided - but this interesting tribute to the "immortality" of the legendary tale is barely touched and not gone into in any profound depth. What is gone into in veritably meaningless depth is the next part of the book called The Train Ride - and all the Wikipedia-ish detailing about the the history of Euston station (with a picture as well!) is truly illustrative of the cobbled together nature of INVENTING SCROOGE.

Having said all of the above, the dust-jacket design by Whitney Cookman is truly fetching and festive. And there are many interesting things to be learned herein: the origin of Scrooge's name and nature, the medical diagnosis of Tiny Tim, the actual business and location of Scrooge & Marley and so forth. My trouble is not with the contents at all. It is with how those contents are conveyed. Page after page of quotations cut-and-pasted from other sources, with way too many of those borrowings seeming more like poor padding than actual meat and potatoes, and with a barely audible single authorial voice ultimately does not make for a very pleasant and inspiring read. Just as my long ago history teacher's tedious technique was the wrong approach, so it is with Mr. Devito's compilation. I truly wish this had not been the case.

The Poet and the Vampyre - The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters
The Poet and the Vampyre - The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters
by Andrew Mcconnel Stott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars THE POET & THE VAMPYRE: Pointless & Vapid, 2 Oct. 2014
When I came across this book in my local bookstore, I was thrilled! I have always been fascinated by the Summer of 1816 that gave birth to FRANKENSTEIN (and THE VAMPYRE). The opening scene betwixt Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley in the classic THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN gripped me as a child and still hasn't let go, all these years later. So seeing the book - and especially at this imminent Halloween-time of year - with its captivating title - THE POET AND THE VAMPYRE - I drew excitedly closer to the volume on the New Releases bookstore table. I then read with a further thrill its thrilling and promissory subtitle: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters. All this then alchemically mixed with the truly Gothic cover image of a fog-enshrouded precipice that subliminally suggested Frankenstein's phallic laboratory in the Universal films wherein were birthed the Monster and his mistake-of-a-mate, well, with all this going for it just by looking at the cover, this looked to be the book I had always hoped for - a deep, penetrating, poetic look at, well, all the things promised via title, subtitle and haunted, haunting cover.

Alas, I am sorry to say that I haven't been this disappointed in a book in quite some time. The book itself, writ by Professor of English Andrew McConnell Stott, is in NO way commensurate with its cover! I will even go so far as to say that the disparity between book and cover is clear evidence of the all-too-prevalent ruse known as 'false advertising.'

As a prior reviewer noted, way too much of the tedious text is filled with all sorts of minutiae hardly germane to the promised purpose of the book. This would not matter so much as the Devil is, after all, in the details. But the details I was hoping for are just not there! What is peculiar and perverse about Stott's book is that it seems to willfully, wantonly evade the book's seemingly avowed purpose - and that is taking its readers into the sanctum sanctorum to witness the actual 'Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters.' The actual title itself is even problematic: nothing is really revealed about the dynamic between the Poet - Byron, I assume - and the Vampyre - Dr. Polidori's novella which had its genesis one summer night at the Villa Diodati, along with Mary Shelley's macabre masterwork. Perhaps Stott's recitation of the intertwining stories of Byron and his brooding bunch is meant to somehow say that Byron, himself, was the Vampyre in all of this. It isn't really made clear - nor is 'The Curse of Byron' adequately addressed or even defined. One could say that practically everyone was cursed in those Gothic, Romantic Days - even so much as to willingly allow the notion of a Curse to ever take hold and flourish in the first place. Why pick on poor Byron!

Hoping the door to the delivery rooms of both Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula's Vampyre forebear would be wide open to us herein, we are permitted just a peak in followed by a fast-shutting door in our faces instead. There is no sense conveyed within these pages whatsoever of the conception, birth and nursing by Mary Shelley of her Great Monster. Nor is there any genuine genealogical examination of how Polidori's Vampyre led to the other of Literature's Greatest Monster - and that would be Count Dracula. Is there any insight as to why Mary wrote what she did, or how her husband Percy truly assisted her - or the possibility of his having actually ghost-written the book, is this looked at at all? What did Byron think of the autographed copy he'd received? How did Mary's account of the novel's genesis change over the years as evidenced in her varying introductions to the book? This is the minutiae that ultimately matters! Fine, it is interesting to read about how the Simplon Pass came to be - but more so serve us stuff central to the book's title and subtitle and at least attempt to paint pictures in words to match the spooky, spectacular cover image. What is herein is a tale told many times before and in some very better ways. Even the illustrations within seem to purposefully diverge from what the cover and book title seemingly promise. I was left, after reading through this dry, academic recitation of people and places, wondering, in all honestly, why the book was even written in the first place.

If only the contents were truly wed to the cover!

Naming Jack the Ripper: New Crime Scene Evidence, A Stunning Forensic Breakthrough, The Killer Revealed
Naming Jack the Ripper: New Crime Scene Evidence, A Stunning Forensic Breakthrough, The Killer Revealed
by Russell Edwards
Edition: Hardcover

37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars RIPPER RUBBISH???, 23 Sept. 2014
On page 13 of Russell Edwards' NAMING JACK THE RIPPER he tells us that when he was ten years old he followed the just-breaking case of the Yorkshire Ripper "closely" - and this led him to an interest in serial killers during his teens. Yet on page 17 we are told that as a young man living in London he "knew nothing about Jack the Ripper" and "had no idea that I (Edwards) was walking the streets where his crimes took place." We are further informed that it wasn't until 2000 that Edwards "first heard the Ripper story." As a matter-of-fact, it wasn't until he sees FROM HELL - the Johnny Depp Ripper flick in 2001 - that our author (who grew up loving horror films and had an 'inherent interest' in serial killers in his teen years) realizes that his "favourite area, the East End, was the location of these grisly murders about which I had only the vaguest idea." "How strange," he claims, "that I had been walking the same streets as this mysterious killer without knowing it." According to Edwards, thanks to the Depp film, his "continuing fascination - obsession even - with the Ripper case was born." Does any of this ring true? Not to me, it doesn't!

However, the one thing that is true is Edwards' admittance of "obsession" with regards to Jack the Ripper. That, plus his extremely evident egomania. When reading a doctor's report on the named Ripper in this book - Aaron Kosminski - we find that Kosminski "declares that he is guided and his movements altogether controlled by an instinct that controls his mind" and that he "knew the movements of all mankind." Edwards summarizes this and tells us "These are the sort of delusions often experienced by sufferers from schizophrenia." After reading this book I had the uncanny feeling that Edwards himself might be suffering from a touch of what his Ripper suspect suffered. On page 22, in discussing the key to the door that would answer the Ripper riddle, Edwards says "I had a feeling, born I suppose of ignorance and arrogance, that I was going to find that door." Elsewhere he proclaims his "need to be successful, to make something of myself" and his "strong feeling that I would always have to do it myself, without any help." On page 70, after chronicling the phony facts about her life as told by Ripper victim Liz Stride herself, Edwards empathizes and writes "I can understand her need to build a better past for herself" and that maybe she came to believe her lies because "she had told the lies so often."

What does this all mean? Well, it becomes quite clear from a careful reading of the book that its author is quite possibly suffering from monomaniacal tendencies - particularly in his approach to the identity of Jack the Ripper. His "saga" becomes rather farcical in many of his "Eureka" moments. When the DNA analyst is not as bowled over from a finding as is our author, he writes: "Jari was still being a scientist, and stressing caution. He had to stay neutral...For me it was a cause for celebration" and off he goes to "let his hair down and revel in how far we had got" by sinking a few pints. Why does Edwards feel that he, himself, was in a deeper touch with Truth and thus need not stay "neutral" or that Jari's "still being a scientist" is cause for a seemingly snide comment? Throughout the entire book Edwards constantly mentions things "moving in the right direction" and admits to a sense of "urgency" and when urged patience by Jari, again Edwards admits "I was desperate for even more progress." On and on like this, to the point that the book seems to have been rushed into print - before any of its findings were given over to any peer review. It seems our anxious, self-described "entrepreneur" (one definition of which is "a promoter in the entertainment industry") is the sort of "scholarly" bloke who says "Look! But...don't touch!" And, of course, without peer review there are no other hands involved to corroborate or condemn the findings of this book. So the aura of sideshow hangs over this story and its shawl, simply because it is mainly only through the anxious voice of Russell Edwards that this tale is told.

The story of the shawl that is the centerpiece, the Holy Grail, the be-all and end-all, the raison d'etre of this big-bucks making book is, itself, ludicrous. Halfway through the book Edwards has a "Eureka" moment and realizes the shawl was not the property of Catherine Eddowes, the Ripper's fourth victim, but rather Jack left the shawl at the scene of the crime himself, perhaps as a clue to the dates of his killings at Michealmas time - this because the shawl had Michaelmas daisies patterned on it. Of course, the first two killings did not occur on Michaelmas dates - nor did the last - but...so what? Edwards had an insight on instinct and ran with it and expects non-discerning readers to stand or sit in awe - until one really thinks this rubbish through. The shawl, by-the-way, is eight feet long. So "Jack" Kosminski is supposed to have carried this about with him on the night of the Double Event to leave it as a clue - even though no such clues were left at any of the other crime scenes. Ripper rubbish!

The biggest thing we are expected to swallow is how the supposedly blood and semen-stained shawl ever came down the years to the auction house and then to being the subject for this gold-mine whopper of a book. Well, according to the family that kept the heirloom, a policeman relative (that is not documented anywhere as ever having been anywhere near the scene of the crime) well, supposedly at some point when the butchered body was first discovered or being taken away, he asked a senior officer if he could have the shawl to give to his wife "because the silk was clearly of good quality, and he thought she might be able to use it for her dressmaking." Really? Bloody, semen-stained, eight feet of potential evidence and Acting Sergeant Amos Simpson walks off with the shawl and into the annals of crime history! According to our self-crowned Ripperologist author: "By today's standards of policing, it was shoddy to remove a possible piece of evidence. But in those days, there was no importance attached to the belongings of a victim because without the benefit of the modern forensic tests we can carry out today, they added nothing to the investigation." Read that again. Rubbish! Ripper rubbish! Especially so because by this time - the fourth or fifth Ripper crime - everything was of import. Just read the lists of items found on the victims' bodies: "a ball of hemp, 1 smooth tooth comb, 1 piece of white coarse linen, etc." and see how meticulous inventorying every shred of evidence was - and not just to potentially solve the crime, but to eventually hand over to the victims relatives. And Kate Eddowes had a big family! To think that an eight foot long piece of high-quality silk would be so casually lifted from the evidence of an even-at-that-time world famous crime scene is laughable. The clothing of the victim was also of utmost importance in use for identifying the victim. On page 177 Edwards writes of the shawl that, given its blood and semen stains and bits of split body parts, "at the time of its retrieval must have been in quite a mess." No kidding! But we are still asked to believe that this huge item of clothing was taken - with permission - by a policeman to take home to his wife!

As to the DNA, where - in this book - are detailed appendices of the scientific lab results? Again, where are there any peer reviews? Edwards sends pictures to various places to help in the dating of the shawl - and gets a lot of opinions from the photographs - but where is the hands-on textile expert opinion or a carbon-14 dating of the material? The shawl was at one time in the Black Museum - yet apparently never displayed because it was never authenticated! The descendant of Amos Simpson, the man who eventually sold the shawl at auction was first given it by his mother when she went to Australia from 1986 until she came back in 1989. That time is telling. 1988 was the 100th Year Anniversary of the Jack the Ripper killings. This was a banner year for all things Jack. It was also the time of the Maybrick Diary and the pocket watch with Jack's alleged scratchings on it. Who knows what happened to the shawl to possibly make it more controversial? More Ripper-relevant? More...sell-able! Who knows who handled it in that time? Did any of Catherine Eddowes' descendants see it then or at any time? Handle it? Contaminate it? And we never learn where the DNA that supposedly matched Kosminski came from, since the source is anonymous in this book.

In the classic Brando-directed Western ONE-EYED JACKS, imprisoned for murder Rio (Brando) asks the manipulative bad-guy Dad (Karl Malden) if he is going to get a fair trial and Sheriff Dad reassures him and says "Sure, sure, kid...You'll get a fair trial." Short pause. "And then we're gonna hang you!" Russell Edwards somewhat reminds me of Dad. A truly just person listens to all the evidence first - before making up his mind. Russell Edwards' total monomaniacal focus and obsession was on making a name for himself by "Naming Jack the Ripper" - so his need for a name made him focus on a man whom most serious Ripperologists completely discount - and that is Aaaron Kosminski. If this spurious shawl with its hoaxish history is Russell Edwards' only real evidence - which he says it is - then it is not evidence at all. When Edwards was building his case against Kosminski, he ran into a brick wall in getting the records from one of the asylums where Kosminski was held. This, however, did not stop our ersatz Sherlock Holmes, no, for he tells us there in black and white - "I paid one of the professional archivists to do the work for me." Does that one sentence speak volumes... about this volume? Food for thought!


Comment Comments (68) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 20, 2015 9:40 PM BST

Godzilla [Blu-ray][Ultraviolet] [2014] [Region Free]
Godzilla [Blu-ray][Ultraviolet] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Price: £7.00

14 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars POSTERS BETTER THAN THE PICTURE, 21 May 2014
I am disappointed.

The awesome, frightening posters and sneak-peak previews all hinted at a Godzilla that would be akin to the original Godzilla of the very first film: a colossal, living and breathing and destroying all in its path Hell on Earth. A monster, roused from the ocean depths by man's own technological tamperings with Mother Nature, Godzilla was pure and primitive payback in that first austere, chilling, dead-serious classic film. So the posters and previews for this version directly pointed to that type of Godzilla. But what we get instead is much more so the Godzilla from all of the loony sequels to that first epic - the user-friendly Godzilla who has a change of heart and sometimes helps the Japanese people and the world by taking on such titanic terrors as MechaGodzilla, Gigan, Destroyah, King Ghidorah, the Smog Monster and so on and so forth. Thus, along those lines, in this GODZILLA we have Godzilla the nascent Superhero battling two ridiculous-looking hybrids of Mothra and Rodan, the MUTOs. And since the movie has far more of the MUTOs in it than the titular character, the film - in all honesty - should have been called MUTO - or at least tell it like it is and call it GODZILLA VS MUTO!

Forget all the destruction caused by the three monsters in this movie, the real destruction was levelled upon this film by the movie's makers themselves! This movie is a mess in so many ways I don't know where to begin. Here are some Spoiler Alert scattershot comments then: big mistake to not make the star...the star! Bad structure to give the audience the MUTO way before Godzilla makes his bow. We become immunized to the gigantic long before the giant we came to see even appears. G's roar is also lame compared to the horrifying sound of the original. Maybe they toned down the terror in the timbre just to make G more user-friendly. Another faux pas: mostly every time something is about to happen involving Godzilla, the scene cuts to the dull, cliched, terribly acted (with the sole exception of Bryan Cranston) human tale. There is one scene, for example, in San Francisco Bay with Godzilla surfacing - and it looks darn terrific - but...for some inept reason...it cuts away! And this strip-tease approach happens way too many times and gets tiresome fast. The CGI would also have been much more impressive if it were used in a much more imaginative way. There are no really good scenes at all of the King of the Monsters in the ocean, or coming ashore or seen from a distance or an aerial perspective or standing amidst the fiery rubble of a city he supposedly destroyed - as in the one riveting poster. And the only thing Godzilla destroys are things destroyed while battling the MUTOs! Collateral damage is all. One also never gets a sense that the presence of the super-sized monsters is in any way a world-wide threat - or that entire populations are being effected and even destroyed. And where is POTUS in all of this? (Perhaps his absence was a veiled comment on current reality?) Again, the Godzilla hinted at in the posters and sneak-peaks...is not the Godzilla in this film. Herein he somewhat reminded me more of a reptilian version of Peter Jackson's bloated Kong - especially in the scenes where he may be dying after having battled the incredibly annoying MUTOs. However, after the last scene wherein Godzilla rebounds and heads for the water, I half expect to see him in the sequel wearing a big red cape with a G on it.

One thing more: Alexandre Desplat is a fine composer. But not as evidenced by his score for this film. The music sounds like it came out of a can, like practically every other action film score of the last 10 years or more. Compare this music to the masterworks writ by Akira Ifukube for the original Gojira films. The best musical sequence in this new film uses the monolith music from Kubrick's 2001 (as it did in the awesome, epic preview) as the soldiers parachute out to battle...well, in the preview we were led to believe it was Hell-on-Earth Godzilla. Truth is, the men are parachuting down to the ruined city to fight the annoying MUFOs. But the point is that the music in that scene - written by someone else - is the best-wed sequence of music and visuals. The rest of the score is cliched and seemingly out of a can.

One more thing, as Columbo would say: the reason the original Godzilla's legs were somewhat hefty was because there was a man in a suit. But since this Godzilla is created by CGI, why are his legs even fatter than those of the original? And why - since the '98 fiasco was burdened with the babies, does this film tiptoe into the exact same waters via the Mother MUFO?

Bottom line: disappointing - and not what was promised by its early promotion.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 1, 2014 6:26 PM GMT

Welcome to Mars: Politics, Pop Culture, and Weird Science in 1950s America
Welcome to Mars: Politics, Pop Culture, and Weird Science in 1950s America
by Ken Hollings
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars KUDOS TO JASMINE HROMJAK, 27 April 2014
The cover of WELCOME TO MARS is proof positive that a picture can be worth a thousand words. On the copyright page we learn that one Jasmine Hromjak did the Cover Design - and what a potent, poetic, evocative, mind-boggling, nostalgic and so very humorous cover it is! Love, love, love the cover! It speaks in a UFO sighting instant of a time and place and mania and mind-set - and anyone with a smidgin of knowledge about America and the cultural and political climate of the '50's would be hard-pressed not to smile and also shiver some when looking upon this book's amazing cover. I only wish the book itself were commensurate to its cover.

Being a baby boomer myself, I was familiar with a great many of the topics covered in Ken Hollings' book - mainly those dealing with UFO sightings and the sci-fi films of the decade. The author assigns each chapter to a year in covering American cultural, political and scientific happenings, as the book's subtitle indicates. While the chronological deluge of people, places and things held interest it did so only up to a point: the point where it seemed I was reading a more densely packed "birthday" card, the kind that lists all the happenings in the year you were born, from the miraculous to the mundane. So that is what this book became, in the end. It is a blink-and-miss it approach that over time grows exceedingly tedious. A tidal wave washing everything and anything up on the shore of a reader's scrutiny. I dare say, if someone knows next to nil about this seismic decade in American history, the book may seem to be written in Greek. I know that if one never saw the films discussed, the discussions would by-and-large seem decidedly confusing, pointless and vague. I would guess Hollings is after both style and substance - but the substance of the book, in the end, becomes its style - and the adrenaline rush of raw data with which the book begins ultimately wears itself out rather quickly, like an undisciplined boxer giving too much too soon and exhausting himself for later rounds and thereby losing the bout. The fact that some of the info Hollings serves is tainted doesn't make matters any better.

A few examples of errors I picked out of the whirlwind read: on page 76 Hollings claims that the reason Scotty, the newspaper reporter in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, fails to photograph the electrocution of "The Thing" is due to "some unconscious act of clemency." You see, in Hollings' tortured read of things, he believes Scotty feels a need for some sort of "clemency" because of the imminent executions of the actual atomic spies, the Rosenbergs. According to Hollings, Scotty also stops dead in his recounting of the notorious photo shot by a reporter with a camera strapped to his ankle, a picture of the electric chair execution of Ruth Snyder in 1927. The reason Scotty stops relating the story of the earlier execution is because he knows "history is about to repeat itself" via the Rosenbergs. See what I mean by tortured? Hollings is just trying too hard to find cross-cultural connections that just are not there. Truth is, Scotty doesn't continue with the Snyder story because the Thing is drawing nearer to the final confrontation with the Earthlings. And the reason Scotty doesn't photograph the electrocution of the Thing isn't due to any act of clemency at all! Simple truth is..Scotty faints! His failure to get a single photograph of the Thing is a running joke throughout the entire film.

Here is another: on page 244, Hollings says that Rod Serling got the inspiration for the TWILIGHT ZONE debut episode "Where is Everybody?" from taking a "walk across an empty sound stage." Actually, it was a walk through an empty village set at the back lot of a movie studio. This isn't my being picayune. If you are familiar with this TZ episode, you will appreciate the difference between an empty stage and an empty village. Another: on page 240-41, Hollings misrepresents William Castle's THE TINGLER "as the first movie ever made about LSD" and that because of its subject "the kids in the Midnight Spook Pit are just going to love it." While it is true that this movie shows the first LSD trip in mainstream film - a trip taken by none other than Vincent Price - to say that the movie itself is "the first movie ever made about LSD" is simply disingenuous. Hollings also gets it wrong when he writes that the Price character takes his trip whilst alone, while two other characters are off on a date. In truth, the assistant and girlfriend watch the entire trip from the other side of a lab door. On page 241, Hollings totally misrepresents the one touch of color in the otherwise black and white film. In the film, the blood in a bathtub and running from a sink faucet are red. The color in this sequence - wherein a man is trying to scare his wife to death - has absolutely nothing to do with a LSD trip. To hear Hollings tell it, though, is quite astonishing: "Shot in lurid color while the rest of the film remains in dreary black and white, the hallucination sequences look like a heart-stopping, grotesque, zonked-out parody of THE WIZARD OF OZ." He goes on waxing erroneously: "William Castle takes teenage America for a ride through the chemically enhanced brain; and the boys and girls all seem to like what they see." And more nonsense: "William Castle is the favorite uncle of America's healthy, socialized youth. With the aid of rubber fright masks and bathtubs filled to the brim with fake blood, he is now introducing his kids to the Wonderful World of LSD." If I were a member of the Castle family, I would probably sue because none of what Hollings says about Castle or THE TINGLER is true.

Just as it isn't true that - according to our author on page 249 - "debris thought to be from the crashed Roswell saucer was first examined" at Fort Hood, Texas. Fort Worth Army Air Field, yes, but not Fort Hood. But it seems our author is trying to connect Elvis - who completed his basic training at Fort Hood - to the UFO in Roswell to Lee Harvey Oswald and the Texas military base in order to make some sweeping statement about American culture and craziness. But the connection just isn't truly there, but only in the author's overwhelmed head. So after finding these mistakes relating to things I know about, I uncomfortably wonder what else Ken Hollings got wrong in his book. And in reading a book dealing in large part with the paranoia of a time and place, feeling paranoid in any degree with regards to the veracity of what one is reading...is just not a good way to feel.

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