“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” (1963) Review

 

“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” (1963) Review

Have you ever heard the song, “What a Difference a Day Makes”? Well, the song’s title kept going through my head, while viewing 1963’s “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”, which was based upon Ian Flemnig’s 1957 novel. It seemed such a difference from the very inferior “DR. NO” (and would prove to be quite a difference in my eyes to 1964’s “GOLDFINGER”).

Not only do I consider “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” to be one of the finest Bond films in the franchise, I also view it as Connery’s best. In fact, as with 1965’s “THUNDERBALL”, his acting was superb in this film. James Bond not only seemed mature, but . . . [gasp] human. All one has to do is examine his interactions with leading lady Daniela Bianchi to notice this. Connery has never been so human as he was in this movie. And sadly, he was never this human again.

Connery was supported by a first-class supporting cast. Italian-born actress Daniela Bianchi portrayed the Soviet cipher clerk assigned to seduce him, Tatiana Romanova. What started as an assignment for Tania, ended up as full-blown love affair. Although, Bianchi had her dialogue dubbed by Zena Marshall (from “DR. NO”), she did an excellent job in projecting Tania’s wide range of emotions – including her disgust at ex-Soviet turned SPECTRE agent, Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya).

Speaking of Lenya . . . my goodness, I am speechless! What can I say? The woman was superb! I found her creepy in her scenes with Bianchi and Walter Gotell, yet fearful in the scenes featuring SPECTRE’s leader, Ernst Stavos Blofeld. In fact, she gave one of the best performances by any actor or actress portraying a Bond villain/villainess. And I must say the same for the highly revered Robert Shaw. Not only did his Donovan Grant turned out to be the template for many Bond henchmen to come (with only Andreas Wisniewski from “THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” coming close), Shaw and Connery provided one of the best dramatic moments and fight sequences in the entire franchise.

Hollywood character actor, Pedro Armendariz, portrayed Bond’s Turkish contact, Kerim Bey. Sadly, the role of Bey would prove to be Armendariz’s last one. After finishing his scenes, he committed suicide, rather than suffer any longer from cancer. But fortunately for many Bond fans, Kerim Bey would prove to be his greatest role. Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell were competent as usual. And the movie would serve as the debut of Desmond Llewellyn as MI-6’s Quartermaster.

The plot for “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” centered around SPECTRE’s scheme to lure James Bond into stealing a valuable Soviet decoding machine, and unknowingly deliver it into their hands. In the process, Agent 007 is to suffer a disgraceful death, in revenge for the death of Dr. No. The movie not only had the good luck to be based upon one of Ian Fleming’s few well-written novels, the screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Johanna Harwood, did an excellent job of translating it to the screen. Rich with atmosphere and mystery, “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” almost seemed like the perfect spy thriller – a far cry from the schizophrenic and inferior “DR. NO”. A few changes had been made, but overall they seemed to serve the story very well.

Did I find “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” perfect? No. I have a few complaints. One of my complaints happened to be the Bond-Grant confrontation aboard the westbound Orient Express. From a dramatic viewpoint, it gave Connery and Shaw to exercise their acting chops. From a storytelling viewpoint, it made no sense. It just did not make any sense to me that Grant would take his time preparing to kill Bond, once he got the drop on the British agent. While Grant was busy searching through the unconscious Bond’s jacket and putting on his gloves, I found myself screaming at my TV screen – “What in the hell are you waiting for? Kill him!” I also found the two action sequences that preceded Bond and Tania’s arrival in Venice a bit too much. I had the feeling that the writers added an extra action sequence in order to fill in the movie’s running time. I could have done with either the helicopter sequence or the Adriatic Sea boat chase.

But you know what? Not even these flaws could deter my love for “FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE”. It is one of the few James Bond films that do not adhere to the franchise’s rather silly formula. The movie also possessed a first-rate espionage thriller seeped in Cold War politics. And it featured excellent direction from Terence Young, memorable performances from a talented supporting cast and Sean Connery’s best performance as James Bond.

 

 

“POLDARK” Series Two (1977) Episodes Six to Nine

“POLDARK” SERIES TWO (1977) EPISODES SIX TO NINE

I had earlier pointed out, twenty years after the fourth “POLDARK” novel was published, author Winston Graham continued with eight more novels for the series. In 1977, producers Morris Barry and Anthony Coburn adapted the fifth novel, “The Black Moon: A Novel of Cornwall, 1794-1795” with Episodes One to Five. The two producers continued with Episodes Six to Nine, which featured the adaptation of the sixth “POLDARK” novel, “The Four Swans: A Novel of Cornwall, 1795-1797”.

Episodes Six to Nine picked up the saga by conveying the consequences of what had occurred in the previous five episodes. The adaptation of “The Black Moon” ended with protagonist Ross Poldark, his brother-in-law Drake Carne and several other men rescuing Ross’ friend Dr. Dwight Enys and other British military types from a prisoner-of-war camp in France. Drake’s love of his life and Elizabeth Warleggan’s cousin, Morwenna Chynoweth, married a young widowed vicar named the Reverend Osborne Whitworth. Also, Ross’ nemesis, George Warleggan, learned from the former’s great-aunt, Agatha Poldark that the father of his infant son Valentine might be Ross and not him.

Due to his rescue of Dwight Enys and a few other military prisoners in France, Ross has become something of a hero in the eyes of many locals. Due to his popularity and his position as a member of the upper-class, Ross is being considered as a political candidate for Parliament by a very prominent landowner named Sir Francis Basset. However, the Warleggans and other business/political colleagues are at odds with Sir Francis’ rival, a political patron and aristocrat named Viscount Falmouth, who seemed to have taken their past support for granted. When Ross refuses to consider running for Member of Parliament (MP), Sir Francis turns to the Warleggans and supports George’s run for the office.

Most fans of the “POLDARK” series have expressed little or no interest in the story arc revolving around the political happenings of late 18th century southeastern Cornwall. In a way, I could understand how they felt. Despite Ross’ occasional rants against the members of his class and concern for the working-class, the saga has never struck me as overwhelmingly political. Graham’s saga seemed to delve more into the saga’s setting from a sociological viewpoint. And to be frank, the saga’s melodramatic narrative has always been the most interesting thing about it. I will say about the 1977 series’ adaptation of “The Four Swans”, it tried to make the story’s political narrative as interesting as possible.

This adaptation featured two scenes that I personally found interesting. One scene featured Nicholas Warleggan informing Viscount Falmouth that he and certain fellow businessmen resented waiting hours for an audience with the peer and the latter’s lack of concern for their interests. I enjoyed how actor Alan Tilvern conveyed Warleggan’s resentment and anger in this scene. The other scene – from Episode Nine – featured the actual election that pitted a victorious Ross against George. The ironic thing is that this particular scene featured the two men and their running mates waiting in a room for the election’s results. And yet . . . the entire scene brimmed with excitement, tension and anticipation, thanks to Robin Ellis and Ralph Bates’ performances. Before the election, Ross found himself designated by Sir Francis as head of the local militia to face the threat of a possible French invasion. The only “threat” Ross and his men ended up facing was local mob violence instigated by starving locals who broke into a miller’s warehouse for much needed grain. This incident led to a disagreement between Ross, who was reluctant to punish those desperate for food and a determined Sir Francis, who wanted the ringleaders arrested. Both Robin Ellis and Mike Hall infused a great deal of energy into this scene. Also, I could not help but wonder if the sight of the hanged body of one of the ringleaders was a foreshadow of the consequences Ross might pay with his newly formed alliance with his two political sponsors – former adversaries Sir Francis and Viscount Falmouth.

Another story arc that materialized in these four episodes proved to be the potential romance between Demelza’s other brother – Sam Carne – and one Emma Tregirls, the daughter of Trolly Tregirls, an old friend of Ross’ father. I had no problems with the performances of David Delve and Trudie Styler. Ironically, both managed to produce a pretty solid screen team. But I could not get emotionally invested in a romance between the pious Sam and the free-spirited Emma, who gave the impression of being free-spirited and sexually independent. I could easily see that they were not that temperamentally not suited for one another. Emma also seemed interested in Drake, who obviously did not return her feelings. Drake remained constantly devoted to Morwenna Whitworth. On the other hand, Emma also seemed to harbor a penchant for the company of Sid Rowse, George Warleggan’s right-hand thug. More importantly, I found myself questioning her taste in clothes:

Could someone explain why the show runners of this series allowed Emma to walk around half-dressed in this ridiculous costume? It is a miracle that she was never arrested for indecent exposure.

However, Episodes Six to Nine are supposed to be the adaptation of “The Four Swans”. The title served as a metaphor for the four major female characters in this particular story:

*Caroline Penvenen Enys
*Morwenna Chynoweth Whitworth
*Demelza Carne Poldark
*Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan

I have a confession to make. The story arc involving Caroline Enys and her husband, Dr. Dwight Enys, proved to be something of a disappointment. The arc began with a large, society wedding in which nearly all of the major characters attended. As much as I enjoyed this scene, which I tend to do for those that feature social gatherings, I came away with the feeling that the Penvenen-Enys wedding was more about the guests than the newly wedded couple. Once the series moved past their wedding, it barely explored the first two years of their marriage. While Episodes Six to Nine explored the lives of the other major characters, Dwight and Caroline seemed to be utilized as minor supporting characters who either appeared at social gatherings or used as ready made therapists for Ross and Demelza. At this point of the story, Caroline had replaced Verity Poldark Blamey as Demelza’s best friend. The only time the narrative touched upon Dwight and Caroline’s personal lives was when the topic of her ability to carry a child came up. In the end, I felt that Judy Geeson and Michael Cadman were truly wasted in these four episodes.

Otherwise, their presence in Episodes Six to Nine proved to be inconsequential. And I believe I know why. Coburn and Barry, along with the four episodes’ screenwriter, deleted the narrative regarding the Caroline and Dwight’s troubles during the early years of their marriage. In “The Four Swans”, this story arc involved Caroline insisting that Dwight give up being a local doctor and behaving like a prosperous landowner. As Caroline’s husband, Dwight assumed full control of the estate she had inherited from her uncle. This story arc revealed that despite her marriage to Dwight, Caroline’s class bigotry and her low regard for his profession had not abated. It had a negative effect on Morwenna Whitworth, who had depended upon him to keep her over-amorous husband from her bed. More importantly, the story arc exposed Ross’ slight infatuation for Caroline and his own class bigotry. For it was Ross who finally convinced Dwight to give up his medical practice and adhere to Caroline’s wishes. Being a member of the elite himself, Ross genuinely believed Dwight’s marriage to Caroline finally gave the latter the opportunity to move up the social ladder and solidify his standing among the upper-class. And while it did, the marriage eventually deprived the neighborhood of a very competent doctor – at least in this story. I personally found the deletion of this aspect in Caroline and Dwight’s narrative very disappointing . . . and cowardly.

Episodes Six to Nine’s handling of Morwenna Whitworth’s story arc proved to be a different kettle of fish. May I be frank? I believe it was one of the two best narratives within the four episodes. There were certain aspects of the portrayal of the Morwenna-Osborne marriage that I found questionable. One, the showrunners of this series seemed a bit reluctant to convey that Morwenna had endured marital rape at the hands of her husband on a regular basis. It also failed to convey that Osborne had raped Morwenna on their honeymoon night during the series’ adaptation of “The Black Moon”. There was a scene of husband and wife having sex on the night following the Penvenen-Enys’ nuptials. It revealed Morwenna quietly submitting to Osborne. And when he turned on his side to sleep, she tried to initiate a conversation with him. Huh? If being married to him was that horrible, why would the series convey this? In fact, there was no sign of marital rape until Episode Seven or Episode Eight, when Osborne assaulted his wife, while she was recovering from childbirth. Why did Corburn and Barry waited so long to portray Osborne as a rapist? And why . . . by this point in the series, merely portray Osborne as a one-time rapist?

Despite this, Morwenna’s pregnancy advanced the story in a way that I found explosive. Enter Morwenna’s younger sister, Rowella Chynoweth. Morwenna came up with the idea to recruit Rowella to help her raise Osborne’s two daughters, while she dealt with her pregnancy. What followed . . . turned out to be rather mind blowing. In a nutshell, Osborne became attracted to his young sister-in-law, especially after Dr. Behenna instructed him to refrain from sexual relations with Morwenna, following the rape. Surprisingly, Rowella became attracted to Osborne and began an affair with him. By Episode Eight (or was it Episode Nine), Rowella revealed to Osborne that she pregnant. He tried to pretend that he was not responsible, but Rowella proved to be a tough, ruthless and persistent adversary. One, she provided Osborne with her plan to marry a local librarian named Arthur Solway, so that he could provide a name for her unborn child. Two, she managed to convince Osborne – via blackmail – to provice her and Arthur with a dowry of five hundred pounds. And three, not long after her wedding to Arthur, Rowella revealed that she had “miscarried” the baby. In other words, she was never pregnant . . . and she had scammed him. I found this scenario rather delicious to watch. And when Osborne attempted to enforce his “marital rights”, Morwenna revealed her knowledge of the affair and threatened to kill their new born son if he touched her again. Osborne took her threat seriously. Like I said . . . despite a few quibbles, I was very impressed by the handling of this narrative. And if I must be honest, the first-rate performances of Jane Wymarck, Christopher Biggins and Julie Dawn Cole contributed to the story arc’s dynamics.

I have mixed feelings about how Coburn and Barry handled Elizabeth Warleggan’s narrative in its adaptation of “The Four Swans”. Let me explain. Following Agatha Poldark’s revelation to George Warleggan that he might not be the biological father of his young son Valentine, the wealthy banker went out of his way to find anyone who could verify his suspicions that his wife had an affair with his nemesis, Ross Poldark. Although George failed to verify his suspicions, he began emotionally distancing himself from both Elizabeth and young Valentine and concentrated on beginning his political career. Elizabeth was initially surprised by George’s chilly attitude. Eventually, she began to suspect that the mystery of Valentine’s paternity was responsible. This led to an effort on her part to save her marriage. However, George’s jealousy toward Ross led him to mistreat the latter’s younger brother-in-law, Drake Carne by ordering his henchman, Sid Rouse, to beat the young blacksmith and torch his place of business. Ironically, it was George’s mistreatment of Drake and not his distant behavior that led to a serious quarrel between the couple.

Elizabeth’s struggles with George led to what I believe were two magnificent scenes between the two characters. The first featured Elizabeth’s attempt to coerce George into revealing the cause behind his chilly behavior. This scene featured a first-rate performance by Ralph Bates, as he conveyed George’s struggle to keep his emotions in check and an excellent performance by Jill Townsend, as she conveyed Elizabeth’s bewilderment and desperation to discover George’s motive behind his reserve. But it was the second scene in Episode Nine that truly impress me. But following Drake’s visit to Penrice, the confrontation between husband and wife proved to be an acting showcase for both Townsend and Bates, leading me to regard them as the most valuable players of this adaptation of “The Four Swans”. It also revealed that Elizabeth could be an intimidating powerhouse, when she chooses to be.

Between these two scenes, Elizabeth had an encounter with Ross at the Sawle churchyard. It was their first scene alone since he had raped her in Episode Fifteen in the 1975 series. Despite the excellent performances from Townsend and Robin Ellis, it left me feeling disappointed. Quite frankly, the screenwriter (whose name evades me) failed to faithfully adapt the scene from the novel, when doing so would have been more interesting . . . and honest. Instead of berating Ross for the rape (which she did in the novel), Elizabeth tried to avoid Ross, due to her fear that George would learn the truth about Valentine’s paternity. This made no sense to me, considering that the series had actually depicted the rape back in 1975. In fact, the 1977 series began with Elizabeth harboring anger at Ross. And yet . . . suddenly, the producers had decided to avoid the topic of the rape by pretending that it never happened? What the hell? They even had the screenwriter changed the scene’s ending by allowing Elizabeth to kiss Ross after he offered her a rather ridiculous solution to abate George’s suspicions. Guess what? In the novel, Ross took Elizabeth by surprise by ending the conversation with a few kisses on her face. Jesus Christ! Once again, Coburn and Barry inflicted another attempt to whitewash Ross’ character for the sake of his reputation.

Ross and Elizabeth’s meeting at the Sawle churchyard also played a role in Demelza Poldark’s story arc. A major role. So did Ross’ rescue of Dwight Enys in “The Black Moon”. One of the prisoners-of-war who returned to France with Ross and Dwight was a young Royal Navy officer named Lieutenant Hugh Armitage, who also happened to be a kinsman of the aristocratic Viscount Falmouth. Television audiences finally got to meet young Hugh in Episode Six, during one of Sir Francis Bassett’s dinner parties, attended by Ross and Demelza. Both the latter and Hugh were immediately attracted to one another and engaged in a friendship with strong romantic overtones. Ross became aware of the attraction between the pair and occasionally made caustic remarks about their friendship. Otherwise, he did nothing. But Demelza eventually learned about Ross’ meeting with Elizabeth at Sawle Church from Jud Paynter in Episode Seven. When Hugh urged her to join him on a walk to a local beach to view sea lions in Episode Eight, the pair’s friendship immediately transformed into a romance that was consummated on that beach, leading Demelza to commit adultery.

Overall, I thought this story arc was well handled by the series’ producers, director Roger Jenkins and screenwriter John Wiles. The story proved to be melodramatic, but in a positive way. More importantly, it was not unnecessarily sensationalized, despite the topic of adultery. And I also found this story arc was well paced – from the moment when Demelza and Hugh first met; to his death from a brain tumor. The story arc also benefited from the performances of three people – Robin Ellis, who conveyed Ross’ jealousy with great subtlety; Angharad Rees, who portrayed Demelza as a woman experiencing a genuine romance for the first time in her life; and Brian Stirner, who gave a complex performance as a charming, young Royal Navy officer who had no qualms about romancing another man’s wife. And yet . . . there was something about this story arc that seemed odd to me.

Most “POLDARK” fans claimed that it was against Demelza’s character to be an adulteress. I found that claim hard to swallow. Unlike many fans, I have never regarded Demelza as some ideal woman who belonged on a pedestal. Like the other characters in the saga, she was a complex individual with both virtues and flaws. Am I giving her an excuse for her adultery? No. But there was a certain aspect to this story arc that struck me. One has to account for the fact that Hugh was the first man who had seriously courted Demelza. Ross had jumped up and married her for a reason other than love after a brief, sexual encounter. Worse, he was in love with another woman at the time. Demelza also had to deal with lustful types like Sir Hugh Bodrugan and Captain McNeil, who viewed her as easy sexual prey, due to her lower-class origins. My problem with this version of the Demelza-Hugh romance is that it failed to match how it was portrayed in “The Four Swans”. Hugh was the first (and only) man of her age to romance Demelza, giving their relationship an aura of youthful aura. I found it difficult to view their relationship in a similar manner in this adaptation. The problem is that Rees looked her age at that time – 33 years old. And Brian Stirner looked younger, which I suspect he was. Because of this, their relationship seemed to have more of a borderline May-December vibe to me, instead of a romance between two young people in their twenties.

Aside from two occasions of whitewashing in order to salvage the Ross Poldark character and a few other quibbles, I must admit that I enjoyed Episodes Six to Nine. Producers Morris Barry and Anthony Coburn, along with director Roger Jenkins and screenwriter John Wiles did a more than satisfactory job in adapting Winston Graham’s 1976 novel, “The Four Swans: A Novel of Cornwall, 1795-1797”. Their work was well supported by an excellent cast led by Robin Ellis in the lead role. This particular adaptation reminded me “The Four Swans” became one of my favorite novels in Graham’s literary series in the first place.

“Strange Bedfellows” [R] – Part 4

“STRANGE BEDFELLOWS”

Part 4

PRESENT DAY . . . Despair threatened to overwhelm Idril, as she poured herself another drink. For thirty-four years, she had managed to forget that disastrous night at that party in Berkeley Square, in London. Nothing really terrible had occurred. Not really. But that night had hinted plenty of signs of the disaster that eventually enfolded for her. Looking back, she realized that after that night, she should have packed her bags, bid Belthazor good-bye and find another sucker willing to act as a beard for her and Raynor. But feelings toward the good-looking half-daemon had taken hold of her . . . and like the idiot she was that summer, she had to see matters through the end.

———-

JUNE 21, 1969; LONDON, ENGLAND . . . Sebastian Crowe, Idril soon discovered, turned out to be a 46 year-old warlock who presently owned a Georgian-style townhouse in London’s exclusive Berkeley Square that had been owned by his family for over two centuries. She also learned that Mr. Crowe’s family has practiced magic for hundreds of years. But a developing fascination with the darker aspect of magic during his years at Oxford University had led him and two cousins to kill a fellow witch for a powerful sorcerer’s staff. This act led them to become warlocks and according to Belthazor, Mr. Crowe has remained devoted to magic for darker purposes, ever since.

Idril found the warlock’s townhouse a veritable masterpiece in 18th and early 19th centuries luxury. Hollywood could not have done it better. Furnishings that harked back to the elegant eras of both the Georgian and Regency eras filled each room. Idril has grown used to great wealth during her 48 years as a daemon. But she felt more comfortable with the flashy wealth of Hollywood, Las Vegas and the jet setting noveau riche. This aristocratic setting made her feel out of place. And gauche.

To make matters worse, Idril discovered that both Tarkin and Christine were among tonight’s guests. Although she failed to spot the demon, she saw the blond witch conversing . . . quite happily with Belthazor’s mother. Great. She needed this like an encounter with the Source, himself.

The townhouse’s owner approached the demoness, after Belthazor detached himself to converse with other guests. He happened to be a slim, elegant man with a sensuous, yet equinnine countenance and thick blond hair. Despite his decadent appearance, a ruthless intelligence gleamed from his gray-blue eyes. Eyes that Idril found very unsettling. They seemed to look right through her and unlock any secrets she might be harboring. In fact, Idril began to wonder if he might be a telepath.

“So, you’re Belthazor’s companion for the evening,” he drawled in an English, upper-class accent. His eyes swept over Idril’s figure with sharp precision. “Very lovely. Belthazor always had such . . . interesting tastes. I understand that you’re a . . .” he leaned forward and whispered, “. . . daemon, as well?”

Idril straightened her posture in order to emphasize her superiority over the mortal. “Yes. I am. I’m with the Thorn Brotherhood.”

Crowe took a sip from his martini glass. “You know, I never could understand why your order is called the ‘Brotherhood’. Especially since there are females amongst its members.” He gave her a direct stare. “Do you?”

The warlock’s question took Idril offguard. She had never questioned the order’s name or anything else about it, in her life. She had always been a loyal member. “Huh? I mean . . . uh, well . . . I guess . . . I guess I uh, never really thought about it.”

The warlock seemed unimpressed – almost disappointed by her response. “Hmmm. Well . . .” Nimue appeared before the pair and Crowe nearly sighed with relief. “Elizabeth! Darling!” Idril realized that Nimue must have been using the name Elizabeth amongst the mortals. Crowe pecked the older female’s cheek. “I was just getting to know Belthazor’s young lady. Um . . . what’s your name, dear?”

“Idril,” Nimue said, giving the younger female a tart smile. “Although I do believe that she sometimes uses the name, Diane Hayward.”

An insincere smile curved Crowe’s thin lips. “How charming.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Ah, Miles is here. At last. Pardon me, ladies.” He quickly left the two daemons alone to greet another guest. Idril suspected that she had just witnessed an escape – from her.

Nimue took the younger demoness by the arm and guided the latter toward the long refreshment tables. “You look quite famished, my dear.”

“Well, it has been a while since I ate,” Idril admitted. She picked up a plate – along with a napkin – and began to fill it.

The older female did the same. “I must say that I am curious. About you and Belthazor. How did you two meet?” She instructed a servant to place some smoked herring on her plate.

Hesitating, Idril selected a stuffed artichoke. “At a nightclub in London, earlier this month. At some place called . . . um, the Triple Six.”

“Oh yes! The club owned by Miss Bloome.” Nimue continued to select more food. “She’s quite the entertainment entrepreneur here in London. I’m rather surprised by Tarkin. His taste in women usually do not include women of Miss Bloome’s caliber. He has always preferred the sub-standard kind. If you know what I mean.”

Idril wondered if the other woman regarded her as the ‘sub-standard kind’. “I, um . . . I guess. As for Christine, well she is pretty cool.” Memories of that first night in the witch’s apartment flashed in Idril’s mind. “Tarkin seems to think so.”

Nimue added, “And Belthazor.” Idril stared at her. “Well, he seemed impressed by her business acumen. At least according to Miss Bloome.” Idril decided that Christine may have been lying. Bitch!

A uniformed servant placed a serving of Lobster Thermidor – sauce included – on Nimue’s plate. “I must admit that I am rather surprised that you and my son have . . . well, become so interested in each other, lately.”

The older daemon’s words infuriated Idril. “Meaning what?” she snarled. “That I’m not good enough for him? What are you supposed to be? A character out of a bad soap opera? The clinging mother?”

Blue eyes regarded Idril with a chillness that nearly frozen the younger daemon’s soul. “Really, my dear. Don’t you think you’re being rather rude? And childish? I never said such a thing.”

Idril shot back, “But that’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? I’m not good enough for your precious half-breed!”

“I think you really need to do something about that inferiority complex of yours,” Nimue quietly replied. “Before you do or say something that you’ll regret.” She paused and held out her plate to a servant who was serving canapés. “You know, I never realized that you were so insecure. No wonder Raynor had decided to marry Avara. Must have been a blow for you.”

Further angered by Nimue’s spiteful words, Idril retorted, “Raynor’s marriage to Avara is nothing more than a convenient one. It’s a political marriage for the Brotherhood and the Realm. He’s still wants me and . . .” She broke off in mid-sentence, aware of what had just slipped out of her mouth.

A spiteful smile slowly curved Nimue’s mouth. “Thank you, my dear. You’ve cleared up everything for me. However, I suggest that you end your relationship with Belthazor before he finds out.”

“Find out . . . what?” Idril demanded. “That Raynor and Avara’s marriage was one of convenience? He knows that. Everyone does!”

“Yes, my dear. But does he know that you were Raynor’s mistress? And that you still might be?” Panic filled Idril’s mind, as Nimue continued, “I can only assume that this sudden interest in Belthazor is due to some twisted plan of yours and Raynor’s to use my son to hide your tawdry affair from Avara. She’s not exactly the type to share.”

The younger demoness struggled to keep her anxiety in check. If Nimue ever decide to tell Belthazor about her relationship with Raynor, her plans would be ruined. Even worse, she would lose the half-daemon. And to her surprise, she could not fathom such a thing. Perhaps if she . . .

“Don’t!” The word came out of Nimue’s mouth like a gunshot. “Don’t even think about it.”

Idril stared at the older demoness. “I don’t know what you’re . . .”

Nimue leaned forward – almost in a threatening manner. “You want to kill me, don’t you? Perhaps hire an assassin to kill me, before I can tell Belthazor about you and Raynor?” Her voice grew soft . . . and frightening. “I wouldn’t contemplate it, if I were you. Belthazor might not take kindly to you arranging his mother’s death.”

At first, Idril felt an urge to flee from Nimue’s eyes – until she remembered something. With a derisive snort, she shot back, “I doubt very much that Belthazor would care. He had no qualms about killing his uncle, as everyone knows. And he doesn’t like you very much.”

A long pause followed as Nimue stared at the younger female. Idril squirmed with discomfort under the other demoness’ gaze. Then the former sighed. “You might be right. Then again . . . you might not be.” Another sly smile curved Nimue’s lips. “There’s something you should know about Belthazor, my dear. He’s not a predictable person. In fact, he possesses a great talent for taking others by surprise.” She quietly thanked the servant and walked away from the speechless Idril.

Bitch! Hatred and fear raged within Idril, as she stared at Nimue’s retreating figure. That interfering, know-it-all bitch! The younger demoness had a good mind to go ahead and hire an assassin to kill that mortal-loving bitch. Unfortunately, Idril had no idea how Belthazor would react. Nimue had been right about one thing – Belthazor was notoriously unpredictable. He may not have harbored any qualms about killing his uncle, but he may not take the death of his mother that kindly – despite the estranged relationship between mother and son.

Carrying the plate of food, Idril sauntered into another room to find an empty seat and stopped short at an unpleasant sight. Beyond the double French doors, Belthazor and Christine stood on a terrace, deep in conversation and obviously enjoying each other company. Even worse, Tarkin was no where to be seen. An ugly feeling gripped Idril that her allure to the handsome half-daemon was beginning to fade.

————–

“We really need to stop meeting like this,” Christine said with a wicked smile stamped on her face. “Or people would start to talk. I believe I saw your mother hanging around, when we were getting our food, not long ago.”

Cole handed her a glass of champagne. “About what? We’re just talking.” He turned to face the view that overlooked Buckingham Palace in the far distance. “As for my mother, she can think what she wants.”

Christine took a sip of her champagne. “And what about Tarkin and Idril? They seemed to be conveniently no where to be found. Rather odd, don’t you think?” Blue eyes glittered mischievously. “If I didn’t know better, Belthazor, I would swear that you were trying to get me alone.”

“As much as I enjoy your company, I believe you might have a inflated sense of yourself.”

The witch’s smile widened. “If you say so.”

“By the way, about that business proposition of yours . . .” Cole began.

Christine’s smile disappeared. “You like it?”

“Why haven’t you approached Tarkin about this plan?”

A sigh left Christine’s mouth. “Because this is a plan that requires a legal touch. And from what I’ve heard, you’ve got a bit of a legal background. What’s the matter? Afraid that we might end up spending too much time, together?”

A wide grin stretched the half-daemon’s lips. “Trust me. The idea of you and I to . . .” His grin disappeared at the sight of his mother approaching the terrace. “Oh shit.”

“Belthazor, Miss Bloome.” Nimue greeted the pair with a polite smile. “Enjoying yourselves?”

Cole replied sardonically, “I was. Is there anything I can help you with, Mother?”

Nimue’s smile grew cooler. “Not particularly. Just making sure that all the guests are enjoying themselves.”

Christine swallowed the last of her champagne and smiled at Cole’s mother. “Oh don’t worry, I am. This place is super.” She turned to Cole. “Do you mind, love? I believe I see an old friend. Excuse me.” Flashing one last smile, she turned on her heels and re-entered the townhouse.

“Nice going, Mother,” Cole retorted. “I think you just scared her away.”

Nimue rolled her eyes. “Nonsense! I doubt very much that I can scare the likes of her. She seems like a very resourceful young woman. She probably thought we might want to be alone.”

“Well, she guessed wrong,” Cole shot back. He started to turn away.

Before he could escape from his mother, her voice called him back. “Belthazor,” she said, stopping him in his tracks, “why don’t you stay for a few minutes. We haven’t had a decent conversation since . . . last year.” She referred to the incident in which mother and son had helped his uncle Marbus escaped the attentions of the Source’s bounty hunters.

A sigh left Cole’s mouth. “What do you want to talk about, Mother? About how you disapprove of Christine?”

“What makes you think I dislike her?” Nimue protested. “I know nothing about her. On the other hand,” she hesitated, “I do know a great deal about Idril. And I cannot help but wonder what you see in her.”

Detecting shades of snobbery and criticism in the demoness’ voice, Cole became angry. “And what exactly is wrong with Idril? Not good enough for me?”

Nimue rolled her eyes. “Oh dear. There goes that unfortunate phrase, again. I really am beginning to suspect that today’s society pays too much attention to soap operas and other melodrama.”

“Mother!”

The demoness continued, “There is nothing wrong with Idril. I just . . . I never really imagined her as the kind of woman you would become interested in. Females with a need to cling to a strong, protective male have never been your type, before. You have always preferred your women to be a lot less insecure. What led to you to become interested in Idril, I wonder?”

“Perhaps she seemed like someone new,” Cole retorted. “And could it be that she’s also very attractive?”

“Hmmm. I suppose. If you prefer beauty of the cheap variety.”

Annoyed by his mother’s innuendos, Cole decided that he had enough. “Excuse me. I think I’ll go back inside . . . where the air is fresher.”

“Back to Idril?” Nimue shrugged her shoulders. “Perhaps she won’t be in the mood to enjoy your company. Especially after tonight.”

He should just walk away. Just leave and forget about the acid words that seemed bent upon pouring out of his mother’s mouth. Unfortunately for Cole, his curiosity got the best of him. “Meaning . . . what?”

A knowing smile curved Nimue’s lips. “Meaning . . . just a minute or two before I had interrupted you and Miss Bloome, I saw dear Idril standing in the room’s doorway . . . watching the two of you enjoy each other’s company. She did not look very happy.” The demoness’ smile widened. “Pardon me.” Then she brushed past her only son and disappeared into the house.

————–

PRESENT DAY . . . “Hmmm, you liked her, didn’t you?”

Cole glanced up from his plate of Chicken Parmagian and stared at Olivia. “Liked who? Idril?”

Olivia rolled her eyes with contempt. “Give me a break. I’m talking about Christine Bloome. You liked her.”

“Of course I did,” Cole said with a shrug. “Who didn’t? Tarkin certainly did. She was a likeable woman.”

A wall of silence surrounded the couple’s booth. “Cole . . .” Olivia’s voice became sharp. “Cole, look at me.” The half-daemon stared into a pair of green eyes that now resembled polished stones. “Do I look like an idiot to you? You liked her, didn’t you? A lot.”

Cole now realized why his fiancee’s voice seemed so sharp. “You’re not jealous, are you? I can’t believe it. I’ve just spent nearly a half-hour talking about my relationship with Idril, and the moment I bring up talking with Christine at Sebastian Crowe’s party, you’re suddenly jealous.”

“You liked her . . . didn’t you?”

Cole sighed. He realized that he would not be able to avoid answering this particular question. “What makes you think that?”

“Because of the look in your eyes, whenever you mentioned her,” Olivia replied. “Christine Bloome, I mean.” She paused. “You liked her. Right?”

Realizing that Olivia would never abandon her question, he decided to tell the truth. “Okay, yeah. I liked Christine. A lot.”

“Thought so.”

“If you must know,” Cole continued, “you remind me a lot of her. Both of you seemed to have a joie de voire that I find very attractive. And you’re both ruthless as hell. Ruthless, yet . . . I don’t know . . . very compassionate, I guess.” Olivia’s eyes widened. “I know. Christine is supposed to be this evil witch. But she could be compassionate. One could always talk to her. It’s the same with you.”

Olivia’s face turned pink with embarrassment and she glanced in another direction. “Oh,” she murmured. “Thanks. I guess.” Then she took a sip of her iced tea. “I guess Tarkin must have been crazy about her, as well.”

“At first,” Cole replied. Olivia stared at him. “But I think he eventually became tired of her. Or . . . wary of her.” He hesitated. “I think Christine began to intimidate him. And I don’t think he cared for the idea of some witch being so intimidating. So, he began to fool around with other women.”

Olivia asked, “And how did Christine feel about that?”

After taking another sip of iced tea, Cole replied, “I don’t think she really cared, in the end. She had other fish to fry.”

“Namely you?” Olivia’s eyes bored into his.

Cole merely remained silent and took another sip of tea.

End of Part 4

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (1940) Review

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“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (1940) Review

There have been at least eight adaptations of “Pride and Prejudice”, Jane Austen’s 1813 novel. But as far as I know, only four are well known or constantly mentioned by many of the novelist’s present-day fans. And one of the four happens to be the movie adapted in 1940 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” told the story of the five unmarried daughters of a 19th century English landowner and the efforts of his shrill wife to get them married before his estate is inherited by a distant male cousin. For years, this version of Austen’s novel has been highly regarded by fans and critics alike. But ever since the advent of numerous Austen adaptations in the past 15 to 20 years, these same critics and fans have been incredibly harsh toward this Hollywood classic. Many have complained that the movie failed to be a faithful adaptation of the 1813 novel.

Many of the complaints volleyed by recent Austen fans include:

*The movie’s fashions and setting changed to the late 1820s and early 1830s
*The deletion of Elizabeth Bennet’s trip to Derbyshire and Pemberly
*Mr. Darcy’s slightly less haughty manner
*Instead of a ball, Charles Bingley held a fête for the Hertfordshire neighborhood
*The change in Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s reason for visiting Longbourn

The 1940 movie was the first version of Austen’s novel I had ever seen. Since then, I have become a major fan of some of the adaptations that followed – including the 1980 miniseries, the 1995 miniseries and the 2005 movie. So, when I had decided to watch this version again, I wondered if my high regard of the film would remain. Needless to say, it has.

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” had a running time of 117 minutes. To expect it to be a completely faithful adaptation of the novel seemed ridiculous to me. If I must be frank, I have NEVER SEEN a completely faithful adaptation. But I can say this about the 1940 movie, it remains as delightfully entertaining as ever.

However, the movie is not without its faults. And I was able to spot a few. One, I found Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of the haughty Fitzwilliam Darcy as not quite so haughty . . . especially in his pursuit of Elizabeth Bennet during the Netherfield Fête. The time span between Elizabeth’s departure from the Collins household in Kent and Darcy’s arrival in Hertfordshire, to announce his knowledge of Lydia Bennet and George Wickham’s elopement seemed ridiculously short. Since the movie was nearly two hours long, it could have spared a scene in which Colonel Fitzwilliam had revealed Mr. Darcy’s part in Charles Bingley’s departure from Hertfordshire. Instead, we are given a scene in which Elizabeth angrily conveyed the colonel’s revelation to her friend, Charlotte Lucas. And speaking of Charlotte, I was rather disappointed by her portrayal. It made Gerald Oliver Smith’s (Colonel Fitzwilliam) appearance in the movie rather irrelevant. I found nothing wrong with Karen Morely’s performance. But screenwriters Aldous Huxley, Helen Jerome and Jane Muffin failed to do justice to Charlotte’s character or her friendship with Elizabeth.

Despite these disappointments, I managed to enjoy “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” as much as ever. A good deal of Austen’s words and wit remained in the screenplay. And the screenwriters also added some of their own memorable lines that left me laughing aloud. After my recent viewing of the movie, I believe this “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” is one of the funniest Austen adaptations I have ever seen. Director Robert Z. Leonard has been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award at least twice in his career – for 1930’s “THE DIVORCEE” and 1936’s “THE GREAT ZIEGFIELD”. It seems a pity that he was never nominated for “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”, because I believe that he did an excellent job of injecting a great deal of atmosphere, humor and zest into the film. And his pacing of the film is top-notch. Not once did I ever have the inclination to fall asleep, while watching it.

While many Austen fans were busy bemoaning that the movie was not completely faithful to the novel, I was too busy enjoying it. And if I must be brutally honest, there was one major change to Austen’s story that really impressed me. At the Netherfield Fête, Elizabeth began to show signs of warming up to Mr. Darcy, following her demonstration of her prowess as an archer. But when he noticed the less pleasant sides of the Bennet family, Mr. Darcy withdrew himself from Elizabeth, deepening her dislike toward him even further. This was a creation of the screenwriters and to my surprise, I ended up enjoying it.

As I had hinted earlier, I found it to be one of the funniest adaptations I have ever seen. There were so many scenes that either had me laughing on the floor or smirking (with delight). Some of them included the Bennet family’s introduction to Mr. Collins, poor Mary Bennet’s attempt to entertain the guests at the Netherfield Fête, Mrs. Bennet and Lady Lucas’ race to reach their respective homes in order to order their husbands to call upon Charles Bingley, Elizabeth’s first meeting with George Wickham at the Meryton Assembly, and Caroline Bingley’s attempt to express interest in Mr. Darcy’s letter to his sister Georgiana. But the few scenes that I consider my personal favorites were the interaction between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy during a game of archery, Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal to Elizabeth and the dinner sequence at Rosings with the verbose Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

I tried to find a performance that seemed out of step for me. The only one that left me feeling less than satisfied came from Karen Morely, who portrayed Charlotte Lucas. Her Charlotte seemed to fade into the background, in compare to the other characters. I suspect that the problem had more to do with Huxley, Jerome and Muffin’s screenplay than the actress’ performance. But everyone else seemed to be at the top of their game. Both Ann Rutherford and Heather Angel were outrageously silly as the younger Bennet sisters. Marsha Hunt was hilarious as the Bennet family’s wallflower, Mary. Bruce Lester was charming as the extroverted Charles Bingley. He also made a strong screen chemistry with Maureen O’Sullivan, who was equally charming as the eldest Bennet sibling, Jane. Frieda Inescort was both convincingly cool and sometimes rather funny as the imperious and ambitious Caroline Bingley. Edward Ashley Cooper gave what I believe to be the second best portrayal of the roguish George Wickham. He was charming, smooth and insidious. And Edmund Gwenn gave a subtle, yet witty performance as the quietly sarcastic Mr. Bennet.

However, there were five performances that really impressed me. One came from Melville Cooper, who had me laughing so hard, thanks to his hilarious portrayed the obsequious William Collins, Mr. Bennet’s annoying heir presumptive for the Longbourn estate. Equally funny was the unforgettable character actress, Edna May Oliver as Mr. Darcy’s overbearing aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Her role as an English aristocrat seemed so convincing that I was amazed to discover that she was an American from Massachusetts. Mary Boland gave a superb and entertaining performance as the equally overbearing and gauche Mrs. Bennet. In fact, I have to say that her portrayal of Mrs. Bennet is my absolute favorite. My God . . . that voice! She really knew how to put it to good use. Fresh from his success in 1939’s “WUTHERING HEIGHTS”, Laurence Olivier tackled the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy, regarded as the favorite Austen hero by many fans. Personally, I thought he did an excellent job, although his Darcy never struck me as haughty as the other interpretations I have seen. From what I have heard, he was not that fond of the picture or his role. I was also amazed that he had such a strong screen chemistry with his leading lady, considering that he thought she was wrong for the part. Olivier had this to say in his autobiography:

“I was very unhappy with the picture. It was difficult to make Darcy into anything more than an unattractive-looking prig, and darling Greer seemed to me all wrong as Elizabeth.”

I thought it was nice of Olivier to call Greer Garson “darling”. But I do not think I can take his comments about her performance that seriously . . . especially since he wanted Vivien Leigh – his paramour at the time and soon-to-be future wife to portray Elizabeth. Personally, I am glad that Garson ended up portraying Elizabeth. I thought she was superb. Garson had a deliciously sly wit that she put to good use in her performance . . . more so than any other actress I have seen in this role. Some have commented that in her mid-thirties, she was too old to portray Elizabeth. Perhaps. But Garson did such an excellent job of conveying Elizabeth’s immaturities – especially when it came to passing judgment on Mr. Darcy that I never gave her age any thought. All I can say is that she was brilliant and I heartily disagree with Olivier.

Many fans have commented upon Adrian’s costume designs for “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. They seemed to have taken umbrage that he designed the costumes from the late Georgian Era – namely the late 1820s or early 1830s, claiming that Austen’s story should have been set during the Regency Era. However, Austen first wrote the novel in the late 1790s. And she did not change it that much before it was finally published in 1813. There was no law that “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” had to be set in the 1810s – especially when one considers there was a version set in early 21st century India. Personally, I found Adrian’s costumes beautiful, even if they were filmed in black-and-white. And since “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” was not a historical drama, I simply do not understand the fuss.

After reading so many negative comments about “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” in recent years, I wondered how I react to watching it again after so many years. To my surprise, I discovered that I still love it. Even after so many years. I admit that it is not perfect. But neither are the other versions I have seen. The magic of Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier and director Robert Z. Leonard still holds up after so many years.

 

TIME MACHINE: Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)

TIME MACHINE: ASSASSINATION OF SENATOR ROBERT F. KENNEDY (1925-1968)

On June 5, 1968; Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Kennedy was fatally shot by a gun man, while walking through the hotel’s kitchen with his wife Ethel Kennedy, former FBI agent William Barry, Olympian athlete Rafer Johnson and former football player Rosey Grier.

Kennedy was the seventh child of former U.S. Ambassador to Britain and businessman Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Following the election of his older brother John F. Kennedy as the 35th U.S. President in 1960, Kennedy served as Attorney General for his brother’s administration. In November 1968, Jack Kennedy was assassinated by a sniper in Dallas, Texas. Nine months following his brother’s death, Robert Kennedy ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, representing the State of New York and beat his opponent, Kenneth Keating. Kennedy spent his years in the Senate, Kennedy advocated gun control and the Johnson Administration’s Great Society program for the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. He served on the Senate Labor Committee and supported the campaigns for better working conditions for laborers. And by 1968, Kennedy had shifted his opinion on American involvement in Vietnam by advocating the eventual withdrawal of American and North Vietnamese soldiers from South Vietnam.

While meeting with labor activist Cesar Chavez in Delano, California in February 1968, Kennedy decided to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President. However, Johnson changed his mind about running for re-election following the Tet Offensive in Vietnam that occurred between late January and late March 1968. Kennedy officially announced his candidacy on March 16, 1968. His main opponents for the Democratic nomination were Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota and later, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. Kennedy ran on a platform of racial and economic justice, non-aggression in foreign policy, decentralization of power, and social change. His policy objectives did not sit well with the business community, where he was viewed as something of a liability. Many businessmen also opposed Kennedy’s support of tax increases to social programs.

Kennedy learned of the assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; while visiting Indianapolis, Indiana. Riots broke out in many cities following King’s death, with the exception of Indianapolis. There, Kennedy gave his famous “On the Mindless Menace of Violence” speech on April 5, 1968. Later, he attended King’s funeral with his younger brother Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and his sister-in-law, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. He won the Indiana Democratic primary on May 7, 1968; and the Nebraska primary on May 14. But he lost the Oregon primary to Senator McCarthy on May 28. The Kennedy campaign hoped that the senator would beat McCarthy for the California primary, knocking the latter out of the race; and eventually face Vice-President Humphrey in Chicago, Illinois.

The 1968 California presidential primary elections were held on Tuesday, June 4, 1968. Kennedy claimed victory over McCarthy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, four hours after the California polls closed. He spoke on the telephone with one of his major supporters, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota. Then around 12:10 a.m., Kennedy addressed his campaign supporters in the hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom. He ended his speech with the following words:

“My thanks to all of you; and now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there!”

Since presidential candidates were not entitled to Secret Service protection back in 1968, Kennedy’s only official security was William Barry, a former F.B.I. agent. Both Rafer Johnson and Rosey Grier served as unofficial bodyguards. He had planned to meet another gathering of supporters in another part of the Ambassador Hotel by making his way through the Embassy Room ballroom. However, reporters wanted a second press conference and Kennedy’s campaign aide, Fred Dutton, suggested to Barry that the senator should forgo the second gathering and instead head for the press area, via the hotel’s kitchen and pantry area behind the ballroom. After his speech, Kennedy started to leave the ballroom, when Barry stopped him and suggested the alternate route through the kitchen corridor. Both Barry and Dutton tried to clear a path for Kennedy, but he was hemmed in by a crowd and followed maître d’hôtel Karl Uecker through a back exit. While Kennedy allowed Uecker to lead him through the hotel’s kitchen area, he shook hands with people he encountered. As they started down a narrow passageway, Kennedy turned and shook hands with busboy Juan Romero. At that moment, Sirhan Sirhan stepped down from a low tray-stacker beside the ice machine, rushed past Uecker, and fired a .22 caliber Iver Johnson Cadet revolver at Kennedy at least three times or more, before the latter fell to the floor.

Romero cradled the wounded Kennedy’s head, while sitting on the floor. Sirhan was subdued by Barry, Johnson, Grier, and writer George Plimpton, while he continued to shoot in random directions. Five other people were wounded:

*William Weisel of ABC News
*Paul Schrade of the United Auto Workers union,
*Democratic Party activist Elizabeth Evans
*Ira Goldstein of the Continental News Service
*Irwin Stroll, Kennedy campaign volunteer

Ethel Kennedy, who was three months pregnant, stood outside the crush of people at the scene seeking help. Someone led her to her husband and she knelt beside him. Thirty minutes later, Kennedy was transferred to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan. Surgery began at 3:12 a.m. and lasted three hours and forty minutes. Spokesman Frank Mankiewicz announced at 5:30 p.m. that Kennedy’s doctors were concerned over his failure to show any improvement. Kennedy had been shot three times. Despite extensive neurosurgery to remove the bullet and bone fragments from his brain, he was pronounced dead at 1:44 a.m. on June 6, 1968; nearly 26 hours after being shot.

Historians believed that Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab with Jordanian citizenship, had shot Kennedy in retaliation for the latter’s support of Israel during the Six Day War. However, others have criticized this oversimplification of Sirhan’s motives, pointing out that these historians have failed to take account of his psychological problems. Sirhan’s lawyers attempted to use a defense of diminished responsibility during the trial, while he tried to confess to the crime and change his plea to guilty on several occasions. With Lynn Compton serving as prosecutor, Sirhan was eventually convicted of the murder of Robert F. Kennedy on April 17, 1969. He was sentenced to death six days later. However, the sentence was commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 1972; after the California Supreme Court invalidated all pending death sentences that were imposed prior to 1972. This was due to the California v. Anderson ruling. Since that time, Sirhan has been denied parole 15 times and is currently incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in southern San Diego County.

Robert Kennedy’s funeral was held on June 8, 1968 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. His brother, Ted Kennedy, gave the eulogy. Following the mass, Kennedy’s body was transported by a slow-moving train to Washington, D.C., where he was buried near his older brother John, in Arlington National Cemetery.

After the assassination, Congress altered the Secret Service’s mandate to include protection for presidential candidates. Ethel gave birth to Rory Elizabeth Katherine Kennedy in December 1968. Although he had a slight lead over Kennedy at the time of the latter’s death, Vice-President Humphreys became the leading Democratic nominee for the 1968 Presidential election and won the nomination during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, later that summer. He eventually lost the election to the Republican candidate, former Vice-President Richard M. Nixon, in November 1968.

“I, TONYA” (2017) Review

 

“I, TONYA” (2017) Review

Like others who had grown up in the mid-to-late 20th century, I remember the sports scandal that surrounded Olympic figure skaters, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. The media wallowed in the scandal on television screens, newspapers and magazines. It all culminated when both women participated in the 1994 Winter Olympics Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Several months after the ’94 Olympic Games, NBC aired the 1994 television movie, “TONYA AND NANCY: THE INSIDE STORY”. Actually, the television movie appeared two months after the Lillehammer games. Did I see it? No. In fact, I did not even bother to watch the two skaters’ compete in the Olympic Games. I barely gave Harding or Kerrigan a thought through those years in which the scandal was mentioned or spoofed in a series of television episodes, movies, songs and documentaries. However, during the fall of 2017, I found myself watching the trailer for biopic about Harding called “I, TONYA”. The trailer seemed so intriguing and somewhat off-the-wall that for the first time in twenty-three years, I found myself intrigued by the subject and decided to watch it.

Directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Steven Rogers (one of the film’s co-producers), “I, TONYA” is basically a biography about Tonya Harding and her connection to the January 6, 1994 attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan. To be honest, Kerrigan played a supporting role – and not a very big one – in this biopic. This movie was all about Tonya. Starring Margot Robbie in the title role, “I, TONYA” followed Harding’s life from the age of four to the immediate aftermath of the Lillehammer Games. The movie was written a mockumentary style that featured fictional interviews of Harding and others who had a major role in her life:

*Ex-husband Jeff Gillooly
*LaVona Golden, Tonya’s husband
*Diane Rawlinson, Tonya’s first and last skating coach
*Shawn Eckhardt, Gillooly’s close friend and Tonya’s so-called bodyguard
*Martin Maddox, a fictional character who is basically a composite of many television producers that exploited the 1994 scandal

Ironically, Nancy Kerrigan is the only major character in this movie who was not interviewed. Perhaps Gillespie and Robbie, who served as one of the film’s other three producers, felt that the real Kerrigan would be offended at the thought of her cinematic counterpart being featured as a supporting character in a film about Harding. Judging from Kerrigan’s reaction to the movie, they were right. Another aspect of this film that I found surprising is that it was basically a biopic about Harding. The latter did not share top billing with her rival in this film, unlike the 1994 television film. It turns out that screenwriter/co-producer Steven Rogers found Harding’s personal life more complex and compelling. He also noticed that both Harding and her ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, had very conflicting accounts of what really happened with Kerrigan and realized this would make an interesting narrative for a film.

Was “I, TONYA” an interesting film? Well . . . yes. Yes, it was. But it had its flaws. Actually, I could only find one major flaw in the film’s narrative. For a film that allegedly was supposed to be about Harding from the viewpoints of several people, it seemed to me that aside from trainer Diane Rawlinson, only Harding’s point-of-view really seemed to matter. Or the one audiences were expected to take seriously. Most of Jeff Gillooly’s account of his relationship with Harding were portrayed with a grain of salt. At the same time, audiences were expected to accept his account of his relationship with Shawn Eckhardt as the real deal. This . . . contradiction seemed a bit hard to swallow at times. Look . . . I realize that Tonya Harding is at the center of this tale. But if one is going to utilize the narration of more than one character, all viewpoints should be equally judged on whether to take them seriously or not.

But you know what? I still found “I, TONYA” rather interesting. I also found it entertaining. One, screenwriter Steven Rogers and director Craig Gillespie took what could have been a basic Hollywood biopic and created what turned out to be one of the most original and somewhat bizarre film biographies I have ever seen, hands down. As I had earlier pointed out, Rogers and Gillespie utilized the “mockdocumentary” style to include scenes that feature interviews of the main characters. I thought this movie device was utilized with great wit, along with a dash of dark humor and great satisfaction for me. This was especially the case when both the screenwriter and director used it to break the “fourth wall” – a narrative device used when a character breaks away from the story to address the audience.

Many people have wondered why Rogers had focused his screenplay on Tonya Harding. Why not write a movie about both Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? Well . . . as I had earlier pointed out, such a story had already been told in that 1994 NBC television movie. Rogers could have done a movie about Kerrigan and her family’s struggles to support her skating career. It probably would have been a very uplifiting film. But if one looks into Harding’s personal history . . . well, I might as well be frank . . . it is the stuff from which movie biopics are made. Between Harding’s contentious and abusive relationships with both her mother La Vona Golden and first husband Jeff Gillooly, her earthy and frank personality and her more aggressive and modern style of skating that led her to clash with the judges . . . I mean, honestly, can you really blame both Steven Rogers and Craig Gillespie for choosing to do a movie about her? I certainly cannot. Between the off-the-wall directorial style that Gillespie had utilized and Rogers’ sharp screenplay, is it any wonder that I found this movie so fascinating to watch?

What I found even more fascinating is that the movie put the screws to everyone – Harding’s mother, ex-husband, his friend Shawn Eckhardt, the men recruited to attack Kerrigan, the ice skating organizations (both national and international) and yes . . . even Harding herself. Whenever the script had the former ice skating making excuses for some of her questionable actions, it also revealed her excuses or comments as lies. But the most interesting moment occurred when Harding (as narrator) turned to the camera and made this comment about the media and the public’s reaction to her legal travails:

” It was like being abused all over again. Only this time it was by you. All of you. You’re all my attackers too.”

Now . . . one could dismiss this as petulant complaining from the leading character’s part. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. But I could not help thinking there was a great deal of truth in those words. As much as the media and the public loves worshiping a celebrity, once the latter slips or make a mistake, both will bash or drag that celebrity through the mud for as long as they can. It almost seemed as if they revel in that celebrity’s misfortune. Like I said, Harding and those close to her were not the only ones skewered in this film.

In order to make a movie work, one needs a first-rate story, director and cast. “I, TONYA” was very lucky to have Steven Rogers and Craig Gillespie as its screenwriter and director. It was also blessed with a first-rate cast. The movie featured solid performances from the likes of Julianne Nicholson, Mckenna Grace, the very entertaining Bobby Cannavale, Bojana Novakovic and Caitlin Carver. However, the performances that really impressed me came from four people – Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Paul Walter Hauser and Allison Janney.

Paul Walter Hauser gave a very funny performance as the clueless Shawn Eckhardt, whose enthusiasm toward his role as Harding’s “bodyguard” may have led him to go too far. Sebastian Stan gave a very complex performance as Harding’s first husband, Jeff Gillooly. Stan portrayed his character with a combination of quiet charm and violent intensity. Frankly, he should have been nominated for his performance. The wonderful Allison Janney won both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for her portrayal of Harding’s sharp-tongued and abrasive mother, La Vona Golden. I could never decide whether the character was funny or horrifying. But thanks to Janney’s performance, she was very interesting. Margot Robbie (who also served as one of the film’s producers) is the last actress I could see portraying Tonya Harding. If I must be blunt, she is taller and better looking than the Olympic skater. And yet . . . she gave one of the best performances of her career (so far) as the ambitious and aggressive Harding. I really admire how Robbie managed to convey so many aspects of the skater’s personality without being overwhelmed. She really earned her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

Aside from the story, the direction and performances, there were other aspects of “I, TONYA” that I admired. My mind was not particularly blown away by Nicolas Karakatsanis’ cinematography. But I thought his work served both the film’s story and setting rather well. I could also say the same about Jennifer Johnson’s costume designs, which more than an adequate job of serving both the film’s late 20th century setting and Harding’s historic skating costumes. I do not recall Peter Nashel’s score. But I must admit that I admire how he utilize well known tunes from the late 20th century throughout the film. The one technical aspect of “I, TONYA” that I truly admired was Tatiana S. Riegel’s editing. I thought she did a superb job in the way she shaped Harding’s tale from Gillespie’s narrators, fourth walls and sequences on the ice rink. For her work, Riegel earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Editing and won the American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical.

I never thought I would find myself watching a movie about Olympic ice skater, Tonya Harding. Hell, I never thought I would end up enjoying it. Yet, I did enjoy “I, TONYA” very much. I thought it was one of the most bizarre and fascinating biopics I have ever seen. In fact, thanks to director Craig Gillespie, screenwriter Steven Rogers and a superb cast led by Margot Robbie, “I, TONYA” proved to be one of my favorite movies of 2017.

“There’s no such thing as truth. It’s bullshit. Everyone has their own truth, and life just does whatever the fuck it wants.”

 

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“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Five “The Massacre” Commentary

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Five “The Massacre” Commentary

The fifth episode of “CENTENNIAL”“The Massacre”, proved to be a difficult episode for me to watch. In fact, many other fans of the 1978-79 miniseries seemed to harbor the same feeling. This episode marked the culmination of many conflicts between the Native Americans featured in James Michner’s saga and the growing number of whites that make their appearances in the story. It is a culmination that ends in tragedy and frustration.

I am a little confused over exactly when the “The Massacre” begins. I can only assume that it begins days or even hours after the last episode, “For as Long as the River Flows”. The episode picks up with German-Russian immigrant Hans Brumbaugh successfully panning for gold, when he is accosted by his former comrade, the gold-obsessed Larkin. The story eventually moves into the meat of the story – the outbreak of violence between white settlers, the military and Native Americans resisting the encroachment of the whites upon their lands, culminating in the arrival of a former Minnesota settler named Frank Skimmerhorn and the massacre he ordered against a peaceful village of Arapaho and Northern Cheyenne, led by one Lost Eagle from the previous two episodes.

Personally, I consider “The Massacre” to be one of the miniseries’ finer episodes. One of the reasons why I consider it among the best of “CENTENNIAL” was due to its graphic and unsentimental look at how the American government and settlers either drove away or nearly exterminated the Native American inhabitants in the Colorado region. Along with screenwriters John Wilder and Charles Larson, director Paul Krasny pulled no punches in depicting the violence and manipulation used to finally defeat the Arapaho and especially Jacques and Marcel Pasquinnel. Frankly, I found the whole episode rather depressing to watch.

Most viewers would pinpoint Frank Skimmerhorn, the former Minnesota settler-turned militia commander as the villain of the piece. And it would be easy to do so. Using his political connections, he managed to usurp the authority of U.S. Army General Asher; declare Major Maxwell Mercy as a traitor for the latter’s futile attempts to maintain peace; order the death of poor Clay Basket, who tried to sneak away from her son-in-law’s trading post in order to warn her sons of future danger; and place Levi Zendt’s trading post off limits to military personnel. And he did all of this before committing the episode’s centerpiece – namely the massacre of Lost Eagle’s peaceful village.

The massacre was a fascinating, yet horrifying event to watch. More disgusting is the fact that it was based upon an actual event that occurred in Colorado in November 1864 – the Sand Creek Massacre. Not only was the massacre featured in this episode based upon an actual event, the Frank Skimmerhorn character was based upon a real person – John Chivington, who led the Sand Creek massacre. Unlike Chivington, Skimmerhorn was a survivor of the 1862 Dakota Sioux War in Minnesota, who had witnessed the near slaughter of his family. This family tragedy is what triggered Skimmerhorn’s obsessive hatred toward Native Americans. Mark Harmon returned in this episode as Captain John McIntosh, the regular Army officer who found himself under Skimmerhorn’s command. Like Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Crame at Sand Creek, McIntosh refused to lead his men into the attack and allowed several unarmed Arapaho women, children and old men to escape. The one scene that really nauseated me featured the murder of two Arapaho children by militia troopers.

Another aspects of this episode that both horrified and fascinated me was the American citizens’ reaction to Skimmerhorn’s “victory”. It made me realize that despite Skimmerhorn’s crimes and obsession with exterminating the Arapaho in the region, these citizens, the military and the government wholeheartedly supported his actions . . . when they were useful to them. But it took one incident – Skimmerhorn’s murder of the surrendering Marcel Pasquinnel – to express horror and turn their collective backs on him. And the odd thing is that Skimmerhorn was never legally prosecuted for shooting Marcel in the back, just ostracized.

In retaliation for the massacre of Lost Eagle’s village, Jacques and Marcel Pasquinnel went on the rampage, attacking American emigrants and military personnel with Cheyenne leader, Broken Thumb. But their retaliation did not last long against the overwhelming odds against them. Jacques ended up lynched by the Colorado militia and U.S. Army. Michel was shot in the back and murdered by Skimmerhorn. Some have argued that the Pasquinnels – especially the hot-tempered Jacques – paid the price for their violence against American settlers. Personally, I suspect they would have been doomed, regardless of any path they had chosen. They could have followed Lost Eagle’s path and capitulate to the U.S. government’s terms. But Lost Eagle’s choice only led to most of his followers being decimated by Skimmerhorn and his militia. I believe the Arapaho and Cheyenne were simply in a no-win situation.

Despite my high opinion of “The Massacre”, I realized that it was not perfect. As I had hinted earlier, the time factor in the episode’s first half hour struck me as a bit wonky. The episode obviously began in 1860, with Brumbaugh’s final encounter with Larkin. Yet, it is not long before Frank Skimmerhorn makes his first appearance. If Skimmerhorn was supposed to be a fictionalized version of John Chivington, screenwriters John Wilder and Charles Larson failed to realize that the real life militia leader did not make his appearance in the Colorado Territory until 1863 or 1864. To this day, I am confused about the year in which Skimmerhorn arrived in the Colorado Territory. And I also had trouble with a scene featuring a duel between Maxwell Mercy and Frank Skimmerhorn, following Michel Pasquinnel’s death. I can understand that as a West Point graduate, Mercy would be an experienced swordsman. But how on earth did Skimmerhorn, a farmer/minister-turned militia commander would know anything about sword fighting? Because of this, I found the duel between the two men rather ludicrous. I also noticed that Barbara Carrera’s character, Clay Basket, seemed to have become forgotten not long after her character’s death. Characters such as Pasquinnel, Alexander McKeag and even Elly Zendt (who was mentioned in this episode) seemed to resonate long after their deaths. But not poor Clay Basket.

Because of the first-rate nature of the episode, “The Massacre” featured some excellent performances. Gregory Harrison and Christina Raines gave solid performances as Levi and Lucinda Zendt, as they tried keep their lives together, while Skimmerhorn wreaked havoc on their worlds. Both Stephen McHattie and Kario Salem were both passionate and poignant as the doomed Pasquinnel brothers. And Mark Harmon had his moment in the sun in a scene that featured his character Captain McIntosh’s dignified refusal to participate in Skimmerhorn’s massacre. Cliff De Young gave a subtle performance as Skimmerhorn’s only surviving family member, John, who becomes increasingly repelled by his father’s murderous and maniacal behavior. Alex Karras continued his excellent performance as German-Russian immigrant Hans Brumbaugh. But the performances that really impressed me came from Chad Everett, Nick Ramus and Richard Crenna. Chad Everett gave one of his best performances as the well-meaning Maxwell Mercy, forced to witness the destruction of his hopes of peace between the Americans and the Arapaho. Nick Ramus was beautifully poignant as the peaceful Lost Eagle, who witnessed the massacre of the people he had led for so long. And Richard Crenna was both terrifying and pitiful as the malignant Skimmerhorn, who allowed a family tragedy to send him along a dark path toward victory, adulation and eventually rejection.

The episode’s epilogue picked up three years following Skimmerhorn’s departure from the Colorado Territory. The new town of Centennial is being built and Oliver Seccombe (Timothy Dalton), the Englishman whom Levi had first befriended back in “The Wagon and the Elephant”, makes his reappearance in the story. Only this time, Seccombe will make a bigger impact, as he reveals his plans to create a cattle ranch for a British investor named Lord Venneford. And judging from Brumbaugh’s reaction to Olivier’s news, the epilogue sets up a new conflict that will have an impact upon the new Centennial community for at least two decades.

“Strange Bedfellows” [R] – Part 3

 

“STRANGE BEDFELLOWS”

Part 3

PRESENT DAY . . . Wide green regarded the half-daemon with slight suspicion. “So, what happened after you had taken the Pectoralis? Don’t tell me that all of you had spent the rest of the night just smoking?” Olivia commented wryly. “Because I happen to know for a fact that Pectoralis is supposed to be an aphrodisiac.”

“What do you think happened?” Cole quietly demanded. He did not feel prepared to discuss his past sex life with his fiancée. Reaching for his tea, he deliberately avoided Olivia’s gaze.

She stared at him with knowing eyes. “Oh, I get it. You had sex. All four of you. And you don’t want to discuss it. What happened? You had some kind of foursome orgy or something?”

“We didn’t have a . . . foursome,” Cole insisted.

More silence followed. Then, “Oh. Oooh! But you had a threesome. Right?”

Reluctantly, Cole added, “Tarkin, Christine and Idril did.”

“And you didn’t?”

Cole sighed. Hard. “Once. Okay? With Christine and Tarkin.” He took a swig of iced tea. Sometimes, Olivia can be a little too curious for her own good. And blunt. “I’m not exactly into multi-partners, anyway. I’m more of a one-on-one kind of guy. But I was a little high that night, thanks to that damn stuff.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Never took that stuff again, I assure you.”

After another silent pause, Olivia said, “I don’t blame you. I’m not into threesomes or more, myself. But I once heard about this guy in college, who had a ménage a cinq with four co-eds.” Cole stared at her, as images of the redhead with three other females and some guy flashed in his mind. Olivia noticed. “I said I had ‘heard’ about it, not ‘participated’ in the act.”

“So, you’ve never . . .?”

With a sigh, Olivia said, “Well . . . okay. I did take part in a threesome once. And to be honest, I found it rather disappointing. My . . . uh, partners seemed more interested in each other and eventually forgot about me. I ended up feeling like a third wheel.”

Relieved by this piece of information, Cole continued, “Huh. Well, as for me I had avoided the Triple Six Club for a while, after that night. Instead, I came across this little jazz nightclub in Soho.”

Olivia frowned. “So, you didn’t see Idril after that?”

“Not for . . . oh, two weeks. I wasn’t trying to avoid her or anything like that. I just forgot about her. Idril was a woman one can easily forget.”

“So, when did you seriously begin to get involved with her?”

Cole took a bite of his Chicken Parmagian. “After I saw her two weeks later. At the Royal Ascot at Windsor. I ran into her on the third day. Both her . . . and my mother.”

————

JUNE 19, 1969; WINDSOR, ENGLAND . . . Cole and his two companions cheered, as their favored racehorse crossed the finish line ahead of his competition. Impeccably dressed in a black morning suit with an ice blue waistcoat, a matching cravat and a gray silk top hat, the half-daemon happily watched his choice being led to the winner’s circle.

“I’ve got to say Bel . . .” Tarkin immediately corrected himself. “. . . I mean Cole, you really know how to pick the winners.”

Cole allowed himself a superior smile. “What can I say? I’ve always had an eye for horseflesh. Especially the thoroughbreds. I might even breed some, one day.”

“That’s nice love,” Christine commented, as she grabbed Tarkin’s arm. “But right now, I want to see the horses for the next race.” The witch and the two daemons happened to be guests of an old friend of Christine’s, who had rented one of the private luncheon rooms or ‘boxes’ of the racecourse’s Grand Stand first floor balcony. They left the box and made their way toward the stalls. Like Cole, Tarkin was dressed in a similar black morning suit and a tan waistcoat. Christine wore a tailored forest green dress suit with a matching wide-brim hat. For a woman who usually wore flamboyant outfits, she looked surprisingly elegant and relaxed.

While examining the entries for the next race, the trio encountered a familiar figure strolling from the other direction. “Look who’s here!” Christine declared cheerfully.

Cole stared in amazement at the dark-haired woman that approached them. “Is that Idr . . . uh, Diane?” he declared. “What are you doing here?” Like Christine, Idril also wore an outfit more conservative than she was used to. Unfortunately, the demoness seemed uncomfortable and out of place in the elegant surrounding.

Idril smiled at the trio. “Wow! Image seeing you three here! I’m here for the races, of course. What . . . uh, where have you been?”

“Around,” Cole curtly replied. “Why? Have you been looking for us?”

“Oh . . .” Idril shook her head. “No. Of course not. Why should I? I guess I just figured that we would encounter each other, again.” Her eyes flickered at Cole. “So, um, are you guys staying here in Windsor?”

Cole replied, “I believe Christine and Tarkin will remain here. I’m returning to London, later this evening.”

“Mind if I join you?” Idril asked in a suggestive voice.

Before the half-daemon could answer, another female’s voice cried out in a familiar Irish lilt, “Good heavens! Cole? Is that you?”

Cole glanced to his right and stared at the approaching figure of his mother. What in the hell was she doing here?

“Is that . . .?” Tarkin began. He had apparently spotted the older demoness, as well.

The half-daemon heaved a sigh. “My mother,” he murmured ominously.

The auburn-haired demoness halted before her three fellow daemons and the blond witch. “Belthazor.” She offered her cheek to her son – who reluctantly kissed it. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“You know me, Mother,” Cole replied airily. “I’m never far from a race course. Although I realize that I’ve forgotten that you always attend the Royal Ascot every year.”

Nimue smiled coolly. “Not every year. I haven’t been here in three years.”

Cole glanced around. “And where is your faithful retainer?” He referred to a wizard that has been a companion of his mother’s for the past seven years.

“If you’re referring to Sebastian, he’s back in his box,” Nimue explained. Her glance fell upon Cole’s companions. “Tarkin,” she said to the stocky daemon, “you’re looking very well. And still by my son’s side. As usual.”

The younger daemon squirmed with slight discomfort. “Nimue. It’s . . . good to see you. Again. Uh, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine.” He nodded at Christine. “This is Christine Bloome. She’s a witch from the Cimmerian Coven.”

A slight, approving smile curved Nimue’s lips, as her eyes swept over the blond witch. “Nice to meet you, Miss Bloome. I’ve heard a great deal about you and your coven. Very commendable.”

Christine smiled back. “Thanks.”

Nimue’s gaze fell upon the dark-haired demoness. “And Idril. I’m rather surprised to find you here. I didn’t think that the Royal Ascot was quite . . . your taste.” Her expression seemed to hint that Idril belonged to a flashy, late night party in Vegas, instead of the Royal Ascot.

Idril’s face turned red, making her look even more ill at ease. “I . . . uh, I mean . . . someone had suggested . . .” She paused before finishing lamely, “Uh, someone had suggested that I . . . come here.”

“Oh, a friend?” Nimue’s eyes briefly shifted toward her son. “I see. By the way,” her blue eyes gleamed mischievously, “I thought you three might like a spot of news. It seems Raynor and Avara are back from their honeymoon.”

To Cole’s surprise, Idril’s expression tightened slightly. Tarkin said, “Well, that’s good news. I hope that they enjoyed themselves. The wedding was rather nice.”

“Yes, it was, wasn’t it?”

Cole stared at his mother. “I’m surprised that you were at the wedding.” He paused. “Considering your . . . feelings toward Raynor.”

“Well, as head of one of the Brotherhood’s sects, it was my duty to attend. And I don’t regret it. I rather enjoyed the ceremony.” Nimue heaved a soft sigh. “Much to my surprise. By the way, where are you all staying here in Windsor?”

Recalling Idril’s invitation, Cole replied, “I’m staying in London. In fact, both Idril and I will be in London. Why?”

A voice announced the next race over the public announcement system. A touch of frost chilled Nimue’s smile, as she glanced at Idril. “Hmmm. Just curious. Well, I best return to Sebastian’s box. Enjoy yourselves, everyone. Good day.”

Cole stared angrily at his mother’s retreating figure. Why did she always find a way to make others feel like shit with her insinuating comments? She practically left Idril quivering like a frightened rabbit. Because of this, he turned to the dark-haired demoness and said, “About London . . . if you would still like to join me, you’re more than welcomed.” Idril responded with a bright smile.

—————

Several hours later found Cole back at the London flat he had rented for the summer season. After a small supper prepared by the half-daemon, the couple retired to the living room. A few drinks, some minor chatter and a lot of flirting eventually led to them shedding their clothes for some passionate sex.

The couple were on the wide sofa, their damp bodies joined below their waists. Idril laid flat on her back and her legs wrapped around Cole’s waists. She gripped the sofa’s arm above her, while she writhed and moaned with pleasure. Cole knelt between her legs – one foot on the floor. He pounded deep into her body, while their moans filled the room. As his passion increased, the half-daemon’s thrusts grew harder. Faster. Idril’s flesh completely enveloped his, as they both achieved orgasms. The demoness’ body arched upward, while she cried out his name.

Panting, Cole slowly eased himself out of her body. He leaned back against the sofa’s other arm and watched Idril struggled into a sitting position. “In Caspiel’s name!” she declared breathlessly. “That felt . . . I don’t think I don’t know any words to describe it.” She glanced around the room. “Uh, do you mind if I use your sho . . .?” The doorbell rang. The two daemons exchanged glances. Cole remained on the sofa. Idril stood up. “Aren’t you going to answer the door?”

Cole closed his eyes and sighed. He immediately sensed the identity of his new visitor. “I’d rather not,” he replied curtly.

Again, the doorbell rang. Idril frowned, as she donned Cole’s white shirt. “Are you sure? Maybe it’s your building manager. It doesn’t look like he or she will stop ringing.”

More ringing followed. Using his telekinesis, Cole retrieved his discarded trousers and put them on. “Trust me,” he murmured, “it’s not the mana . . .”

At that moment, a figure shimmered into the middle of the living room. “Really Belthazor! How long were you planning to keep me waiting outside? I must have been ringing forever.” Idril gasped out loud, as Nimue’s blue eyes stared at the couple’s half-dressed state. The older woman drawled, “Well, no wonder you didn’t bother to answer. Have I interrupted something?”

Cole glared at the auburn-haired demoness. “Mother! What in the hell are you doing here?”

————–

JUNE 19, 1969; LONDON, ENGLAND . . . Idril continued to stare apprehensively, while Belthazor’s mother cast a cool eye around the apartment. “Lovely flat,” she commented in her soft Irish lilt. “How much did you pay for it?”

“I didn’t buy it,” Belthazor coolly replied. “I’m renting it. Sixty pounds a month. Now, what are you doing here?”

Nimue shot a disapproving glance at Idril, causing the latter’s face to burn with embarrassment. “Sebastian is holding a supper party at his home in Belgravia, on the 23rd. After seeing you at the races today, he has issued an invitation to you.” She paused, as her eyes flickered at Idril. “You may bring a guest, of course.”

“I’m thrilled,” Belthazor replied with a sardonic smile. “Idril and I look forward to seeing you and Sebastian on Monday night. Right Idril?” He glanced at the younger demoness.

Idril opened her mouth to speak. She sputtered a few times – feeling even more humiliated – before finally finding her voice. “Oh . . . uh . . . yeah. I mean, we’ll be . . .”

“I believe I’ve got the message, dear,” Nimue coolly finished. Idril’s face grew hotter. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be returning to Windsor. And I will see you two on Monday night. Remember – Number 15, Belgravia Square.” Fixing the young couple with an insincere smile, Idril shimmered out of the apartment.

A long pause followed. Idril felt a cool draft of air brush against her chest. She glanced down and to her horror, found Belthazor’s shirt gaped wide open – and exposing her chest. Which meant that Idril must have seen . . . She hurriedly fastened the shirt’s buttons, attracting Belthazor’s attention. “You don’t think she noticed anything about my . . . I mean, your shirt, do you?”

Belthazor shot her a contemptuous look. Then he sighed and muttered, “I’ll be in the kitchen, preparing breakfast.”

“But it’s not even midnight, yet.”

“So what?” With that parting shot, the half-demon turned on his heels and marched toward the kitchen. Leaving behind a very embarrassed and slightly humiliated Idril.

End of Part 3

“EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS” (1992) Review

“EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS” (1992) Review

I honestly do not know what to say about “EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS”. I had heard so much about this adaptation of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel. Yet, I have never seen it in the movie theaters. In fact, it took me a long time to finally come around viewing it. When I finally saw it, the movie produced a reaction I did not expect to experience.

Unlike the more famous 1939 William Wyler film, “EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS” proved to be an adaptation of Brontë’s entire novel. Unlike the famous Wyler film or the 1847 novel, this movie was set during the second half of the eighteenth century. Directed by Peter Kosminsky, the movie began with the arrival of a gentleman named Lockwood, who seeks to rent a Yorkshire estate called Thrushcross Grange from its owner – a middle-aged man named Heathcliff. The latter lives at another local estate called Wuthering Heights. While visiting Wuthering Heights, Lockwood has an encounter with what he believes is a ghost . . . the ghost of a woman named Cathy. This drives Heathcliff racing out of the manor house and housekeeper Nelly Dean to recount to Lockwood on what drove Heathcliff to behave in that manner.

The story jumps back to some twenty to thirty years later in which an earlier owner of Wuthering Heights, Thomas Earnshaw, returns from a trip to Liverpool with a young boy who or who might not be a gypsy in tow named Heathcliff. The latter manages to befriend Earnshaw’s daughter Catherine “Cathy”. However, Earnshaw’s son Hindley develops a deep dislike of the newcomer. He fears that Heathcliff has replaced him in his father’s affections. Several years later, Earnshaw dies. Hindley marries a woman named Frances and becomes the new owner of Wuthering Heights. He allows Heathcliff to remain at Wuthering Heights . . . but only as a servant. The one bright spot in Heathcliff’s life is his friendship with Cathy, which has developed into a romance between the pair. When Cathy and Heathcliff discover the Earnshaws’ neighbors, the Lintons, giving a party at Thrushcross Grange, Cathy is attacked by a dog when she and Heathcliff climb the garden wall. The Lintons take Cathy in to care for her and order Heathcliff to leave the Grange. Cathy becomes entranced by Edgar Linton, along his wealth and glamour; while Edgar falls in love with her. Edgar’s marriage proposal to Cathy and her acceptance leads to a major fallout between her and Heathcliff. The latter disappears without a trace for several years. And his return leads to jealousy, obsession and in the end, tragedy for him, the Earnshaws and the Lintons.

“EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS” proved to be rather popular with moviegoers. Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of the brooding Heathcliff and the film’s adaptation of the entire novel left this film highly regarded by fans of period dramas. On the other hand, the majority of films critics were not impressed with this movie. Why they felt this way about the movie? I have no idea. I have yet to read a single review written by a professional film critics. I am simply aware that “EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS” was not that popular with them. While many movie fans are inclined to quickly accept the views of film critics, I decided to see the movie for myself and form my own judgement.

When I first saw this film, I was surprised that it was set during the late 1700s and around the beginning of the 1800s. James Acheson, who had designed the Oscar winning costume designs for 1988’s “DANGEROUS LIAISONS”, created the costumes for “WUTHERING HEIGHTS”. And frankly, I believe he did a marvelous job in re-creating the fashions for the movie’s setting as shown in the images below:

 

Another aspect of “WUTHERING HEIGHTS” that impressed me proved to be the performances. I do not know what led Peter Kominsky and the Casting Department to choose Ralph Fiennes for the role of Heathcliff, but I believe that fate or something divine led them to select the right actor for this role. Honestly, he did a fantastic job in portraying such an emotionally and morally chaotic character like Heathcliff. Some people were a bit put off by Juliette Binoche as both Cathy Henshaw and Catherine Linton. They had a trouble with her slight French accent. I have to be honest . . . I could barely notice her accent. But I thought she did an excellent job in portraying Cathy’s vain and capricious personality, along with daughter Catherine’s no-nonsense, yet compassionate nature. The movie also featured some excellent performances from Sophie Ward as Isabella Linton, Simon Shepherd as Edgar Linton, Janet McTeer as Nelly Dean, Jeremy Northam as Hindley Earnshaw, Jason Riddington as Hareton Earnshaw, and Jonathan Firth as Linton Heathcliff. Overall, I thought the cast was pretty solid.

And yet . . . I must confess that I am not a fan of this adaptation of Brontë’s 1847 novel. I honestly do not care that the movie was a faithful adaptation that covered not only Heathcliff and Cathy’s generation, but that of the younger generation. I am not a fan. One of my problems with this film was Kominsky’s direction. He did a fine job in directing the actors. But I found his overall direction of the film rather problematic. Quite frankly, I thought the entire movie seemed like a rush job. Perhaps he was hampered by Anne Devlin’s screenplay. The latter tried to shove Brontë’s entire narrative into a movie with a running time of one hour and forty-five minutes. I am sorry, but that did not work. Watching this film, I finally understood why William Wyler only shot the novel’s first half back in 1939.

Another major problem I had with the film is Brontë’s novel . . . or the second half. I am not a major fan of the 1847 novel. But if it had ended liked Wyler’s movie, I would have been satisfied. Personally, I have always found the second half of the novel rather boring; especially with Heathcliff running around like some damn mustache-twirling villain. And the taint of borderline incest certainly did not help, considering that Catherine Linton spent most of her screen time being torn between two men that happened to be her first cousins.

My final problems with “EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS” are rather aesthetic. As much as I enjoyed James Acheson’s costumes, I cannot say the same about the hairstyles worn by the cast. Exactly who was in charge of the film’s hairstyles? Because that person seemed unable to surmise that the film was set in the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Some of the cast had modern hairstyles. And a good deal of the women cast members looked as if they were wearing rather bouffant wigs. One last problem I had with “WUTHERING HEIGHTS” was Mike Southon’s cinematography. I suppose the 1990s ushered in the age of naturalistic lighting for period dramas. The problem is that I could barely see a damn thing! Especially in the movie’s interior shots. I find it rather difficult to enjoy a movie or television production in which the lighting is so dark that I found myself depending more on the dialogue than the images on the screen. Worse, even some of the exterior shots seemed a little darker than usual. Was this a case of Southon adding to the film’s Gothic setting? I have no idea. And honestly, I do not care, considering that . . . again, I could barely see a damn thing.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed “EMILY BRONTE’S WUTHERING HEIGHTS”. I really do. There were some aspects of the film that I liked – namely James Acheson’s costumes and some first-rate performances from a cast led by Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes. But I found the movie’s running time too short for an effective adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel. Either the film should have been longer . . . or it should have followed the example of the 1939 film and only adapt the novel’s first half. Overall, I found this movie rather disappointing.

 

“AGENT CARTER” Season One (2015) Episodes Ranking

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Below is my ranking of the eight episodes featured in Season One of ABC’s “AGENT CARTER”. Created by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the series stars Hayley Atwell as Agent Margaret “Peggy” Carter:

“AGENT CARTER” SEASON ONE (2015) Episodes Ranking

1 - 1.06 A Sin to Err

1. (1.06) “A Sin to Err” – While Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark’s valet Edwin Jarvis investigate a mysterious woman whom Stark may have dated, Chief Roger Dooley and the rest of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.S.R.) staff begin to suspect that Peggy might be a traitor in their midst.

2 - 1.05 The Iron Ceiling

2. (1.05) “The Iron Ceiling” – After a message from the Leviathan intelligence agency is decoded; Peggy, Agent Jack Thompson and the Howling Commandos investigate a Soviet military complex to stop a possible sale of Stark’s missing weapons.

3 - 1.08 Valediction

3. (1.08) “Valediction” – In this season finale, Peggy and her fellow S.S.R. agents race to stop a pair of Leviathan agents from kidnapping Stark and dumping lethal gas on the population of New York City.

5 - 1.04 The Blitzkrieg Button

4. (1.04) “Blitzkrieg Button” – Stark briefly returns to New York City in order to instruct Peggy in getting her hands on one of his weapons, now in the hands of the S.S.R. Meanwhile, Chief Dooley travels to Germany to interview a convicted Nazi military criminal about the Battle of Finow, in which most of the Soviet troops were massacred.

4 - 1.01 Now Is Not the End

5. (1.01) “Now Is Not the End” – The series premiere features Peggy, who is still grieving over the “death” of Steve Rogers, arriving at her new assignment with the S.S.R. in 1946 New York City. She is also recruited by Howard Stark, who is suspected of selling his weapons to the Soviets, to find out who had stolen them.

6 - 1.07  Snafu

6. (1.07) “SNAFU” – A suspicious Chief Dooley and the other S.S.R. agents interrogate Peggy about her connection to Stark and Leviathan. Meanwhile, the Leviathan agents get their hands on the lethal gas that had been responsible for the massacre at the Battle of Finow.

7 - 1.03 Time and Tide

7. (1.03) “Time and Tide” – Jarvis is interrogated by Thompson regarding Stark’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, the S.S.R. discover a typewriter used to exchange coded messages by the Leviathan agents.

8 - 1.02 Bridge and Tunnel

8. (1.02) “Bridge and Tunnel” – Peggy and Jarvis set out to find a missing truck filled with nitramene weapons.