Posts Tagged ‘cinema’

1955’s TRIAL… Nothing New Under The Sun

February 18, 2017


This post concerns a rarely seen film. A powerful film; which may explain why it rarely got shown since its release in 1955. New to home video, it dealt with a topical subject when made. And, sadly, the raw ugly truth it conveys about American life remains topical over 60 years later.


As noted thousands of years ago “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Specific issues may change, but society always remains the same, explosive powder keg awaiting a match, often applied by the very people who trick us into believing they want to help us or lead us. Left and Right will mean nothing if the powder keg blows up. And someone always profits from the blast.

In the film TRIAL, each extreme gets revealed as equally deadly when a town becomes a pressure cooker of conflict over a seeming murder.


The story seems deceptively simple: A sheltered law professor with no experience beyond a classroom gets caught up in the real world – and learns that he knows almost nothing about the real practice of law.  If you think America today with its political opportunists who say one thing but do another, who spread racism for profit in new – this film from 1955 (though set in 1947) will show you that nothing has changed. Including those “tolerant liberals” who, inside, harbor just as much prejudice as any klansman.

All sorts of people get involved in a racially charged murder case for all manner of personal profit. We gradually discover that each character has a personal axe to grind: Holding on to a law professor job. Running for governor. Keeping real estate values high. Remaining police chief. Proving himself above racism. And, most deadly, changing society at any cost. As the story unfolds, each character willingly – eagerly! – turns up the heat under the pressure cooker to further his own needs.


This tension creates a crackling, powerful film about extremists of all sorts. Some elements in the film will seem quaint now, but substitute modern groups like the DNC – who want their way regardless of the consequences – and it still works. What kind of a group will gladly cause horrific damage just so they can proclaim “WE TOLD YOU SO” in order to raise money for themselves?
See what I mean? Still works today.

Opportunists willing to destroy everything and anyone to promote themselves have always operated freely among us. Sometimes they win. Sometimes they get opposed successfully. But first we must know them when we encounter them; something not always so easy to see.  When our passions get roused, when we believe that we can clearly tell the “good” people from the “bad,” then we make ourselves ripe for the picking. We blindly give those with ulterior motives the power to manipulate us.

As the lead character says early on: “I learned a long time ago that when someone says ‘decide right now’ that that’s the time to take your time.” He knows this. Does he do it?

Fundamentally, this film presents a cautionary tale about the difference between knowing the right thing and doing the right thing. Passion and certainty cloud the mind. Whether in the courtroom or the bedroom. This film could easily get set in today’s America, using any “populist” movement in place of that shown from the 1940s. As one character slyly notes, “never trust anyone”. Especially those you consider leaders. You may not really know what goals they have dedicated themselves to.


Little wonder TRIAL never made it to home video till 2014. It says things which even today most people just refuse to hear.

Over the years, Mark Robson proved himself a serious film director and the novelist/screenwriter Don Mankiewicz, son of Herman, had solid credentials as well. Mankiewicz lived a long life, till 2015, so he must have seen the situations in his story played out over and over and over.

TRAIL deceives. This film looks like one thing (another courtroom drama, though an excellent, realistic one) yet, like the events depicted, TRIAL really shows another thing. Glenn Ford performs at his best here as the Ivory Tower lawyer who gets, reluctantly, a taste of the real world. Katy Jurado again plays her patented “suffering Mexican mother,” Rafael Campos appears as the young man who might have… or perhaps not…
Of particular note to me: The cinematography of Robert Surtees. It heightens the proceedings with some genuine surprises. Juano Hernandez as the judge performs up to his usual high standards and excels as a man who faces heat from all sides. Arthur Kennedy snared an Oscar® nomination for playing the smartest man in the room. Perhaps too damn smart…


I consider TRIAL worth seeing to understand much of today’s events, for it presents a warning against extremism when it comes cloaked in virtue. Don’t all extremists believe they alone know the “truth”?

Always question. Always look deeper. Never call anything true for no other reason than it comforts you or reinforces your beliefs.

Do so, and you likely don’t know any more than the people who pull the strings on the puppets want you to know. Consider instead the very real possibility that you, yourself, represent the main puppet.

Keep your eye on the prize and you’ll always lose sight of everything else.



Catholics Have Agreed With Evolution For Decades

November 7, 2014


WIth all the media hype over this new pope uttering words of support for the Darwinian Evolution concept, one could be forgiven for popping the champagne corks to celebrate the end of the dark ages. One flaw: The ignorant mass of media “reporters” do not know that the Catholic church and its popes have spoken support for evolution since at least 1950. The media people, mostly actors who play journalists on TV shows designed to simulate a news broadcast, are confusing the protestant strain of fundamentalist with the Catholics, who have never taken the bible, which they stole from the Hebrews in order to invent their “backstory”, literally.
So why the movie poster?
Here is the citation awarded to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey by the National Catholic Office For Motion Pictures back in 1968:


Did you catch that? They LAUDED the film’s vision of the origins of human beings. Fundamentalists would have burned down the theater for what Kubrick shows. But the Catholic film office CELEBRATES this depiction of not just natural evolution but… evolution stimulated by ETs!

And they are not alone in their understanding of science. As I noted several posts back, ancient Jewish Kabbalists set the age of the universe to just what the scientists of today say… only they did it CENTURIES AGO! See that post here AT THIS LINK.

So remember, just because someone is on television telling you things, do not take them at their word. Remember, they are merely performers who seek to get ahead, not in the news business, but in the entertainment business. And look into things for yourself.

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What Is A Coward? WHO Is A Coward?

August 14, 2014

RB500xlWith  the “news” that Robin Williams had gotten a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, we are sure to see an uptick in television conservatives calling Williams a coward. I will deal with Mr. WIlliams and cowardice in a moment, but first, what about these conservatives? With an average of 108 recognized suicides a day in America, why has this one gotten their goat? Rich people killing themselves places a spotlight on the deficiencies of capitalism. These things prove that money does not necessarily solve all our problems. Nevertheless, wealth and fame are the new American dream, replacing the simple home, job and family. People with no shot at attaining either wealth or fame, still waste their lives chasing them. So when people who do have wealth and fame kill themselves, it seriously deranges those who worship those twin goals. To them, the act is at once incomprehensible and threatening to everything they hold dear. They don’t see that people like Robin Williams or Phillip Seymour Hoffman are just people like anyone else. They happen to have a bit more money and many folks knew who they were… But they are/were just people.
Now: What is the NUMBER ONE FEAR of the American people? Public speaking. Needless to say, Robin Williams, like all comedians, conquered that one. He may have had jitters. He may have even experienced stage-fright. But the point is HE DID IT ANYWAY. Courage does not lie in being fearless. That is foolhardy. Courage, the opposite of cowardice, is displayed when you do anyway that which you fear. Williams starred in many Hollywood movies and TV shows. His résumé is a huge list. When he worked, millions upon millions of dollars and THOUSANDS of jobs hung in the balance. And he always showed up. He did the work. That shows more than just courage. That also proves RESPONSIBILITY. 
Comedians are like the heavyweight boxers of show business. That’s how Uncle DIrty describes it. You stand there alone, you and the audience, and you fight it out. You. Alone. Nobody to help you. Just YOU and a room full of people saying SHOW ME WHAT YOU’VE GOT! Think you can do that night after night, year in year out? Especially in the beginning of your career when, let’s face it, you suck at it? Even boxers don’t endure the onslaught of failure that a comic must face in order to learn the craft. That brutal learning period can go on for many years. You think Shepherd Smith of FOX “news” can do that? Hardly. Yet he called Williams a coward and then lacked the courage to say, “Yeah, I did that. I called him that. So?” Instead Smith copped out by saying he didn’t mean it and, employing the all-purpose dodge of the conservative who gets caught, he whined: “my comment was taken out of context.” Robin Williams DEAD has more courage than Shepherd Smith alive. 
Comedians are, by definition, brave. We, who populated the comedy scene when it was hot, knew one comic who, on the way to the laundry, ran into a burning building to rescue people. Another, traveling to a gig, was in a train that derailed. Thrown from the train, he rushed back to help pull people out of the twisted wreckage. Would the junkie Rush Limbaugh do that? Ha! He doesn’t even have the guts to stick out a marriage. Williams married twice and both were long-term relationships. Limbaugh couldn’t make it more than a few years for HALF his marriages… And Williams is “a quitter”? A “Coward”? No. What he was and continues to be, is a self-actualized person who lived on his own terms, And THAT scares the hell out of the rigid, conformist, “OBEY OR ELSE!” wing of the conservative community. They are the cowards. Need more proof? Show me any one of them who called Williams a coward WHILE WILLIAMS WAS ALIVE and did so to his face. Good luck with that. I spit on these vultures. And I would do it in person, too, because that is easy. I was a stand-up comic in New York CIty and friends, that takes guts.
LATE UPDATE: Reports have come in that Rush Limbaugh is retracting his comments denouncing Williams. Well OF COURSE he’s retracting the comments. They served their purpose. He got media attention. And that is all it was about. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Williams. His comments were a way to latch on to a story that’s world-wide news and tear off a bit of that attention for himself. He doesn’t mean ANYTHING he says. He’s all about regaining his audience so he can get sponsors to come back and so he says anything that will focus attention on his big fat deaf head. He is in the shit-house and will soon be off radio. And he knows it.

Religion & Popular Culture Pt. 1

May 4, 2009

picture-1The other day (Don’t you love that kind of a vague beginning? Many’s the time I have read that exact phrase in the NY Times. It just makes me laugh when kids have their parents spend thousands of dollars on an idiotic thing like Journalism School and they write that. Precisely which part of Who Where What When and Why does that fall under?) I say, the other day while tooling around that excellent website My Hoodoo Space I spotted a discussion on Magic and Pop Culture. I posted a version of the following:

On the subject of Magick in pop culture, I believe that we must never neglect that most inane, asinine and self-important of all reality TV programs: American Politics. Where else but in this branch of pop culture can an entire religion be used as an insult with nary an eyebrow raised? I refer, of course, to the son of Nazi collaborator Prescott Bush, George H. W. Bush who, in his aborted presidential campaign for the Republican nomination against Ronald Reagan, derided the Gipper’s domestic policy as “Voodoo Economics.” This was taken as a slur and it still gets used today. How far would that phrase have gotten with any other religion popped in there? “My opponent wants to ressurect the economy… Sounds like Christian Economics to me!” The possibilities are endless.

And all that invoking of God, the Eternal American in the Sky! What politician would dare cap her peroration with “May the Orisha guide and strengthen us”? And when banks which should have folded are thrown back into life with huge injections of taxpayer money, do you know what the financial industry calls them? “Zombie banks”! Hey, if the banks come back to life why not call them “Jesus Banks”? According to the pop culture portrayal of “the undead,” Jesus qualifies as a Zombie. In Depression Era slang a bank was called a jug “Jesus Jugs,” has a nice ring, don’t you think? Even the august and staid NY Times repeatedly uses the terms Voodoo Economics and Zombie Banks. Would they print any similar Jesus references? Hell no.

The sciences of Hoodoo and Magick so many millions of people practice and study – and we who do all know that this is a science – gets amazingly short shrift in pop culture, from the giddy T&A of “Charmed” to the venerable “Bewitched,” it is just a laughing matter. Every would-be Spielberg straight out of that vast American nursery network called “Film School” has a screenplay in his or her pocket for a “cool” Zombie film. Tarantino meets Val Lewton, they all say thinking they have something original.  Zombies to the left of us; Zombies to the right. More women get eaten in these hip little scripts than in all the 1980’s porno films combined (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But I stray from politics. Just once, let’s hear “May the Gods bless America.” And see what happens…

End of sermon.

ADDENDUM: Today May 5, 2009 in the NY Times, Columnist Bob Herbert used the term “voodoo economics” without apparent concern that he was casting aspersions on an old ATR Based way of life that millions of people call their religion.  See? It never ends

On Boring Movies…

February 12, 2009



Oh, God! How friggin' DULL!

Oh, God! How friggin' DULL!


Oh Lord…

How your world never ceases to astound me. Today I discovered something that will undoubtedly prove itself one of the greatest boons to humanity – nay! – civilization itself in the last hundred years. Give or take 20 or 30…

Today I saw Reefer Madness for the first time again. If that confuses you, welcome to the club.  I know that I saw it years ago on one of those bargain video tapes that populated the aisles of the now defunct Woolworth’s. I had the tape so I must have seen it. Someone had opened it, and that likely someone must certainly have watched it for the person had not bothered t rewind it.  As for that someone’s ID… all signs correctly point to me. But today I saw it again and had virtually no memory of it! For example, I must have cleanly and neatly excised from my memory the fact that this film practically puts one to sleep instantly, hence it receiving my vote as the greatest invention in the world. What a great thing to cure insomnia and other sleep disorders. The hell with the fancy sleep clinics! Just have the sleep deprived look at this dog. I assert in the strongest way I know how, that Reefer Madness stands alone as the only known film that gets totally boring during the opening titles!

Yes, I know other boring films exist. But there’s something to recommend them. Like Arthur Penn’s snooze-fest The Missouri Breaks. There’s a few nice touches, but, well let’s be honest and say that it takes a heap of cinematic – oops I mean: movie – skill to get a boring film out of Brando and Nicholson. They should have pepped things up by having the two superstars do something really creative. Yeah, Brando has a phony accent and wears a dress now and then and Nicholson gives a stunningly impressive imitation of that guy who starred in Chinatown. You know who I mean. He starred in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and he was the loony guy in The Shining. You have to know who I mean. The young comic actor who showed such flair in the original Little Shop of Horrors.

Now folks, let us not confuse boring with dull. A dull film could be dull on purpose. Like Dragnet (minus the Dan Ackroyd spoof) and 2001: A Space Odyssey. They were made to show the dullness of routine. I mean boring like put out the light, honey.  In the old days studios spiffed up what they knew were boring films with additional scenes featuring their strongest comedic

Mantan Moreland Frequently Got Very High Billing in Movies

Mantan Moreland Frequently Got Very High Billing in Movies

talent. Like MGM did in the snoozer The Rogue Song by slipping Laurel & Hardy into the operetta. Or almost any one of probably hundreds of films with the sadly underrated comic genius Mantan Moreland. Catch his brilliant comic/dramatic appearance in the Melvin VanPeebles film Watermelon Man. Moreland was so funny and so adept with both verbal and physical schtick that Moe Howard considered signing Moreland to become a member of The Three Stooges after Shemp Howard died. Now that’s some gigantic comedy shoes to fill!  Funny isn’t it that Moreland, a clear comic genius, was for a long time reviled for representing Black people in a “denigrating” way while The Three Stooges never got kicked out of show business for denigrating Jewish people and they played the stupidest people ever put on film.  Moreland languished during the late 40’s and 50’s until he was at last appreciated again in the 1960’s. From there Morland worked steadily in film, TV and commercials until his death at age 71..    Ah, well.