Category Archives: TV

And Then There Were None (2015) A (Mildly) Belated Review

The late writer Agatha Christie is rightfully considered one of the premiere dames of the murder mystery. In her very long writing career, she created two classic detective characters, the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot and the fussy Miss Marple as well as a slew of fascinating novels, short stories, and plays.

But if you were to stand back and rank entire œuvrer, there are two novels in particular which it seems almost everyone knows: The Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express and the standalone 1939 novel And Then There Were None.

There are many, myself included, who would point to And Then There Were None as Agatha Christie’s best overall novel. The plot is simple yet incredibly intriguing: A group of 8 individuals are invited to Indian Island under different -and they soon realize false- pretenses. There they find two servants, a butler and cook, bringing the total number of people on this distant, wind-swept island to 10.

And that night, they are each accused of different murders.

And that night, the first of them dies.

Followed by another.

Then another.

The original novel when released had the absolutely terrible name Ten Little Niggers, after the minstrel song. This was very soon changed, both in the title and in the book proper, to Ten Little Indians (not all that much better an alternative!) and settling on And Then There Were None, but the novel retained the Indian motif, with the island the group was on was called Indian Island.

There have been many adaptations of this book, the first being made in 1945…

That movie, IMHO, was delightful but they did change the novel’s rather grim tone and ending to make a much more pleasant “Hollywood” ending.

There have been other adaptations of the novel over the years and in 2015 the BBC made a mini-series adaptation, which is the focus of this review. Here’s the mini-series’ trailer:

I picked this up a while back and, like so many things, had it filed away and ready to be seen when I had the time. Over the course of two nights, the family and I watched it, and it was a most curious experience.

First off, the mini-series wisely decided to get rid of the “Indian” motif. Indian Island becomes Soldier Island, and the “Ten Little Indians” poem/song which is the basis for the mystery is changed to “Ten Little Soldiers”, to further remove the original source material from its unfortunate racial overtones.

Watching the series, I was struck by how… dull… the opening was. In fact, it was so laid back that I wondered if it would be any good at all.

However, once the characters were on (ahem) Soldier Island and the murders started, things hummed along. I was totally entranced with the rest of the first part of the series (originally the series was released in 3 one hour parts, but the version I was two parts, each 1 and 1/2 hour long).

After finishing that first part, I was more than eager to watch the second/concluding chapter. I thought it was so damn good, perhaps the very best adaptation of the book I’d seen.

Alas…

Yeah, the second part, IMHO, was something of a let down.

To be fair, it wasn’t a total disaster, but clearly the screenwriter decided to ventured into new and different areas. There was sex. There was a weird drug sequence. Neither was found in the original novel and, frankly, it didn’t fit in with the movie proper IMHO.

Worse, the ending, which I always felt was the strongest element of the novel (I’ll get to that soon, I’m re-reading the book right now and will offer a review of it presently), was botched in the mini-series.

So my ultimate review of this mini-series goes like this: Starts slow, turns really great, but then ends in a murky, not quite satisfying fashion, IMHO.

It is not the worst adaptation I’ve seen of a novel (in general), but considering how good the story was presented for a while, it hurts to see the screenplay side-roads taken which hurt the overall product.

Still, I’d offer a mild recommendation. The acting is good, the cinematography/scenario is excellent -I absolutely loved Soldier Island’s presentation- and the production in general is first rate.

If only they had stuck with the novel a little more closely and hadn’t gone off on more modernistic -and sadly silly- tangents.

Ah well, it is what it is.

Coronavirus Diaries 12… Storage Wars Canada…?

Sometimes you stumble upon something and it just… I don’t know. It makes you laugh.

Like so many others under quarantine, when dinner comes around the wife and kids and I search for stuff to watch.

Over on Netflix, we found this show called Storage Wars: Northern Treasure (alternate title is Storage Wars: Canada).

I enjoyed -but didn’t love– the U.S. version of Storage Wars. The concept goes like this: When people don’t pay for their storage unit lockers the storage company takes possession of them and, eventually, they run auctions to get rid of their content.

What’s inside these lockers could be pure gold or complete crap and the auctioneers get a chance to look (but not touch) the material from just outside the locker door before making their bids. The highest bid, of course, gets said lockers.

Storage Wars, the show(s), follow a regular group of auctioneers and its usually highly scripted as they check out each locker then bid against each other. The shows conclude with the revelations of what was found inside said lockers and if the buyers profited or lost.

Storage Wars: Northern Treasures (aka Storage Wars: Canada) appears to have lasted two seasons, 2013/2014 and 2015/2016.

We watched the second season via Netflix. It consisted of some 36 or so 30 minute long episodes and they were, IMHO, pretty freaking hilarious.

This season was clearly far more staged/scripted than the American version of Storage Wars but the cast (and I do feel these people should be labeled actors rather than legitimate auctioneers) are hilariously spiteful, petty, dumb, crafty, stuck up, insulting, and -did I mention this already?- hilarious.

Here’s a sampling:

Again: THIS STUFF IS CLEARLY SCRIPTED! It’s about as “real” as watching wrestling, but I have to say, at least in the second season they maintained a great sense of humor about what they were doing and the episodes were very funny… if (and its a BIG if) you’re willing to play along with the premise.

We’re now working our way through the first season on the show, which is available on Amazon Prime. I don’t know why Season 2 is available on Netflix and Season 1 on Amazon Prime but that’s the way it goes.

So far, the early episodes of Season 1 aren’t as funny as what came in Season 2 and those early episodes seem to more emulate the American version of Storage Wars, with the cast mostly being mean to each other.

I suspect things will pick up. A lot of the stuff in the above video was unfamiliar to me, so it may be from Season 1.

So there you have it, my recommendation for some pleasant, and funny, short dinner viewing.

Come at it with the right frame of mind and you should have some good fun.

Kirk Douglas and Robert Conrad

Over the past weekend news came that legendary actor Kirk Douglas had passed away at the age of (believe it or not) 103.

Image result for kirk douglas out of the past

One of his first great roles was that of Whit in the incredible and classic 1947 film noir Out of the Past. According to IMdb, the role was his third in a movie. The above photograph shows Douglas with the movie’s protagonist, Robert Mitchum (for whom this was also quite the star making role).

Kirk Douglas would go on to make a tremendous amount of really good -and some not so good, but them’s the breaks- films. Some of my favorites, and films I highly recommend you seek out if you haven’t already, include Ace in the Hole (1951) Detective Story (1951), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)…

Damn that film is great!

Lust for Life (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Paths of Glory (1957, probably the film that first made people take note of young director Stanley Kubrick), Spartacus (1960, the second and last Kubrick/Douglas team up), Lonely Are The Brave (1962, the film Douglas felt was his best work), Seven Days In May (1964, one of several features Douglas made with Burt Lancaster -which includes Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and, IMHO, one of the best), The War Wagon (1967, a personal favorite, a mostly comedic “heist” film set in the wild west and featuring another star Douglas made a couple of films with, John Wayne), The Fury (1978, a fascinating if not quite great Brian DePalma directed film that recalls his previous Carrie adaptation), The Villain (1979, a comedy featuring… Arnold Schwarzenegger?!)…

Essentially, its a live action version of the Road Runner cartoons

Saturn 3 (1980, a not all together successful film yet the visuals are fascinating and the story quite gory for its time), and The Final Countdown (1980, a fascinating time travel story)…

These are just some of the many films Mr. Douglas was in that are worth your time, IMHO, and don’t include such works as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which he bought the rights to and wanted to make a film version of (starring himself in the titular role). Eventually, Mr. Douglas would give the rights to his son Michael Douglas, who would make the film with Jack Nicholson and the rest is history.

So he’s made a ton of great works but there is some controversy regarding Mr. Douglas. There is the accusation -and its nothing more than that- that he had an inappropriate encounter (and that’s putting it very mildly) with an underage Natalie Wood. At this point in time it is an allegation and nothing more and should be treated as such.

However, in his first novel, The Ragman’s Son, Mr. Douglas isn’t terribly shy about writing about his sexual encounters with many, many, many women. While I don’t believe I’m a prude, the book struck me, especially as he recounted his sexual conquests, too boastful. And it occurred to me that some of the women he mentioned in the book maybe didn’t want this splattered for everyone to read. It left me with something of a bad taste in my mouth.

As the saying goes, love the art but not the artist and it was after reading that book that I realized maybe it was better to not know so much about an artist whose work I enjoyed so tremendously.

By the way, of the “golden age” big name actors out there, I believe there is only one left alive: Olivia De Havilland. Like Mr. Douglas, she too was born in 1916 which also makes her 103.

Soon after news of Mr. Douglas’ passing, we heard that actor Robert Conrad had also passed away.

Image result for robert conrad wild wild west

Mr. Conrad, perhaps best known for his role of Jim West in the terrific The Wild, Wild West (1965-69) TV show which was subsequently made into a disastrous feature film with Will Smith in the title role, was known primarily for his TV roles.

He first became well known for the TV series 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye before The Wild, Wild West. In many ways his look back then reminded me of a far more buff version of James Dean. Robert Conrad was an exercise nut and his physique showed it…

Image result for robert conrad wild wild west
I swear, it’s like looking in a mirror (*cough*)

He would go on to play guest starring roles in plenty of TV shows afterwards, from Mission: Impossible to Columbo to Mannix before once again hitting upon a popular TV show in the form of Black Sheep Squadron (1976-78).

He was also quite good in the role of Pasquinel in one of the first big “mini-series” made for TV, Centennial.

Robert Conrad would return to playing Jim West in two made for TV movies, The Wild, Wild West Revisited (1979) and More Wild, Wild West (1980). Alas, both films IMHO weren’t all that good, going for camp and goofiness and squandering the opportunity to see some genuine heroic goodness…

What also hindered the movies, IMHO, was the fact that while only some 10 years had passed since the last episode of the original Wild, Wild West, both Robert Conrad and Ross Martin (who would pass away in 1981 and shortly after the second and last film was made) looked rather old to be doing the stunt work the show was so famous for in their prime.

Mr. Conrad would play in many other roles through 2002 and I found him quite funny parodying his “tough guy” image in battery commercials…

…as well as in the role of the gung-ho to go to war General Wombat in the Sean Connery film Wrong is Right (1982) and the super-no-nonsense police officer in the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Jingle All The Way.

Robert Conrad, like Kirk Douglas, appeared to have his quirks. His appearance as the Team Captain on the otherwise fluffy Battle of the Network Stars (1976) revealed his competitive nature in these silly games was… out there. Further, I recall seeing interviews conducted with him where he seemed incredibly, perhaps over-the-top intense.

Maybe they caught him on bad days?

Regardless, Mr. Conrad passed away at the ripe old age of 84 and lived, I imagine like Mr. Douglas, a very full and successful life.

While the passing of both of these actors, given their advance age, was expected, it is nonetheless a sad occasion.

At least their wonderful works will live forever.

Rest in Peace, big guys. You gave me plenty of pleasure throughout your lives.

Odd news…

For those who are roughly my age, you may know actor Ron Ely. Though his heyday was a little before my time, I caught his work here and there and enjoyed it.

He Is perhaps best known for playing Tarzan in a TV series of the same name which aired from 1966-68…

A little later, in 1975, he would play famous Pulp hero Doc Savage in the film of the same name…

In truth, while those two features are what Ron Ely is best known for he acted in many other movies and TV shows from 1958 to 2014.

Now 81 years old, this bit of news appeared on CNN and its a wild story…

Police fatally shot a homicide suspect at “Tarzan” actor Ron Ely’s home in California

The basic story is this (and pardon me for giving the information away): Someone stabbed an elderly woman to death at Ron Ely’s home. The woman’s husband, who has a speech impediment due to a medical condition, nonetheless was able to indicate the killer was a family member. The indicated family member was subsequently found on the property, confronted, and posed enough of a threat to the police that they took him down.

Yes, the alleged killer him/herself was killed.

That’s the extent of the report to this point and anything else is speculation…

Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if the woman’s husband may well be Mr. Ely (who is, obviously by this point, elderly himself). The speech impediment due to a medical condition, sadly, makes me wonder if the person suffered a stroke.

Was the killer the son/daughter of the elderly woman?

Again, its all speculation at this point yet a very sad set of circumstances, regardless of whether they more directly involved Mr. Ely or not.

UPDATE:

Well, it now seems that the situation was as I speculated above. Ron Ely’s wife Valerie was stabbed to death by the couple’s son Cameron Ely. The police arrived on the scene and killed Cameron Ely.

This is all according to TMZ and the article can be found here.

A very, very sad set of circumstances.

Obviously I have no knowledge of the Ely family situation and clearly things went way overboard here for the son to murder his mother.

The weird thing is that apparently Cameron was the one that originally called the police and, again according to the TMZ article above, said it was his father -Ron Ely- that tried to attack his mother. Was Cameron trying to pin the blame of his mother’s murder on Ron Ely?

Regardless, the police arrived and somehow figured out Cameron was the one that killed his mother and then they killed him.

Wow. And damn.

Some days you just can’t believe the news you read.

Doctor Who Season 11, A (Mildly) belated review

I’m a Doctor Who fan. Been one since the early 1980’s when I first saw the show. At that time, the show featured the delightful Tom Baker in the titular role and he was incredibly charismatic, goofy, weird, and exciting. Here are some of the comedic highlights of his run…

Tom Baker’s Doctor Who proved so popular they even got John Cleese into the act. This is his cameo from City of the Dead

It is my belief that Tom Baker’s Doctor Who was so iconic it influenced many of the Doctors to come. Where before the Doctor was an older, usually more “serious” person, this lighthearted, youthful, and at times very odd personality would find its way into future Doctors. That series, which began all the way back in 1963, ended its run in 1989.

In 2005 a new version of Doctor Who began and, in my opinion, did quite well for itself through at least three Doctors, those played by (in order) Christopher Eccleston (a wonderful run yet sadly short lived as he played the Doctor only the first new season and apparently left the show because of friction between himself and the show’s runners), David Tennant (a great run and plenty of well written episodes plus the benefit, for much of the run, of having the delightful Billie Piper as his companion), and Matt Smith (who also had the benefit of acting opposite the equally delightful Karen Jillian as his companion for much of his run).

When Matt Smith departed the show, Peter Capaldi took over the role and his run, I hate to say it, wasn’t quite as good. Mr. Capaldi was fine in the role, I felt, though his Doctor seemed to draw more inspiration from the pre-Tom Baker Doctors (older and more stern) than those who came before him. Alas, the stories weren’t quite as memorable and, as has become clear, part of the magic of Doctor Who is the interaction the Doctor has with his companions. In the case of the Tom Baker years, he had wonderful companions he could “bounce off” of and, during the Eccleston/Tennant/Smith years we similarly had a string of strong, interesting companions, which I listed above.

The big news following the imminent departure of Mr. Capaldi was that Jodie Whittaker was taking on the role of the Doctor, making her the first female to take the lead role. Here is her first appearance as the Doctor, along with Peter Capaldi’s exit…

I was all for it!

I set the DVR and taped the entire 11th Season of the show plus the New Year’s Special and, over the summer and whenever I had a chance, watched all 11 episodes and…

…Ho boy.

To put it bluntly: As excited as I was with the prospect of a female Doctor, the 11th season of Doctor Who simply wasn’t that good.

As I mentioned above, having a strong actor play the lead role is important but so too are the Doctor’s companions. This time around, sadly, the three companions Ms. Whittaker’s Doctor flies around with are… well… they’re not terrible but they never really distinguish themselves all that much either.

For that matter, Ms. Whittaker’s Doctor, as written, is too much of a cypher, often daffy and never quite fearsome or as engaging as I hoped, often running around breathlessly and/or aimlessly.

Don’t get me wrong, the season wasn’t a complete disaster by any means. There were decent episodes and moments here and there but, overall, I’m not too surprised to see the ratings for this season hovering between the 5-6 stars out of 10 for viewers at IMdB with only two of the episodes rising to a little over 7 out of 10 (you can check the IMdB ratings for individual episodes here).

Though I just offered negative critiques of the actors, my feeling is they performed as well as they were asked. The show’s problems, as they often do, lie with the writers/scripts.

The episodes in Season 11 of Doctor Who, in my humble opinion, were mostly -beware, I’m about to use an incredibly complex literary critique here- blah.

The stories were never as exciting as one hoped they would be though some featured intriguing situations -the most intriguing of which was the Doctor meeting up with Rosa Parks in segregated America. Even sadder was the fact that this season featured some very established and relatively big name actors who were promptly wasted in mediocre episodes. I’m referring specifically to Chris Noth as a Trumpian fool in the mediocre Arachnids in the U.K. and Alan Cumming playing King James in the equally mediocre The Witchfinders.

Still and all, as I said the season wasn’t a total disaster. My hope is that the writers/producers/directors learn from their mistakes and give audiences better overall episodes.

I really like the idea of a female Doctor Who and feel Jodie Whittaker can do the role justice.

Please, just give her better stories!

Game Of Thrones… Finale

DISCLAIMER: I have yet to see a single full episode of the Game of Thrones TV series and I have not read any of the G. R. R. Martin books on which the series is based.

And yet… I’m fascinated by the HBO series. Have been almost from the beginning. As each episode has appeared, I’ve read the mostly positive reactions to the show and I know most of what’s gone on in it: The surprise/shock deaths and the evil machinations of the various characters.

I’m sure I’m missing quite a bit, having not seen show or read the novels, but I’m familiar enough with some of the main characters and know that many fans have found the final season and conclusion of the HBO show a bitter disappointment.

Going back in time, I recall people thinking/hoping the final two books in Mr. Martin’s series would be released just as the show reached its end. Soon these same fans realized it was very likely the second to the last novel might be released by the time the show ended, but it became increasingly doubtful the final novel would see the light of day before then. Then, more time passed and suddenly it was clear neither of the two last books would be released before the show ended.

And so it’s come to pass.

In fact, readers still don’t know when the last two books will be released, if ever, and they’re certain the decline in quality of the series and, especially what they witnessed in this last season, was due to the fact that the show’s runners no longer had Mr. Martin’s books to guide them.

In that, they’re likely quite right.

I’m sure you’ve been wondering: If I haven’t seen the damn series nor read any of the books, what in the world could I possibly add to the conversation regarding Game of Thrones and its TV end?

Welp, if you’ve been reading my posts, you know I have my own little series of novels which I’ve recently concluded. The series, titled Corrosive Knights, consisted of seven novels…

When I heard a few years back that it was likely Mr. Martin would have neither of the last two novels of the series done before the TV show finished, I knew the show might be in trouble and feared exactly what’s happened for many, that the show ended in disappointment.

Understand, I’m no psychic. I based this on the experiences I had writing my own novels.

You see, when I was knee deep in writing Ghost of the Argus, the fifth book in the Corrosive Knights series, I had absolutely no idea the series would go on for two more novels. At that point, believe it or not, I had absolutely no idea how the series would end, if ever. I was enjoying writing each novel and seeing where my imagination would take me.

Granted, I knew I had to eventually wrap the series up and create some kind of conclusion, but there was method to my madness. By focusing on each novel as I wrote it, I was determined to make each book stand out on its own and build upon what came before.

By the time I was on the last couple of drafts of Ghost of the Argus, I had this wild, sudden vision of where the next two books would go. Suddenly, I knew the next two books would offer a conclusion to the series and, just like that, I had a general framework for where I was going.

But it was only a framework.

What followed were four years of very hard work, of trial and error, of new/surprising directions. You see, while I had a general idea of where I was going, I still had to get there. I had to take this framework and build organs and musculature, flesh and blood, around it.

Had HBO been working on a Corrosive Knights TV adaptation of my works and were getting along on the series and wanted to know how I was going to end it, had they asked me before I had my vision I would have had no answer for them. After my vision, I could have provided them with the framework but that’s all they would have had. What I created in four years after was very much different from that initial set of ideas.

I can’t help but think that the Game of Throne showrunners were in a similar position, given general ideas from Mr. Martin. They were the ones who had to come up with all the organs, flesh, blood, and outer skin… and if we’re going by many of the negative reactions, they simply weren’t up to the task.

Frankly, I feel for them.

I’m certain they did the best they could but the fact is they aren’t Mr. Martin and they haven’t gone through the trial and error and actual writing that Mr. Martin has.

Maybe one day the books will finally appear and all those fans of the series will get their better ending.

Until then, they’ve got what they have.

News of the weird…

Growing up in the 1970’s and early 80’s was an odd experience. There was incredible intrigue around the notion of “unexplained” mysteries. You had popular books like…

Chariots Of The Gods.jpg

Which theorized aliens visited Earth in ancient times and built all kinds of things those primitive humans simply could not.

There were plenty of other mysteries out there to explore. How about…

Related image

…or perhaps UFOs? How about Bigfoot? Or the very mysterious fate of hijacker D.B. Cooper?

Image result for d.b. cooper

Yes indeed, a weird, entertaining time to be an armchair detective, sorting through the half-truths presented in various books/magazines and, yes, even TV shows hosted by… Leonard Nimoy?!

Yeah, a fun time to be around, even if many of these purported mysteries were likely far less mysterious than the presenters would have us know.

Welp, now and again certain “mysteries” bubble up. Some are relatively new (the chupacabra!).

With great amusement I found this article by Julia Hollingsworth and found on CNN.com concerning…

“Yeti” footprints sighted claims Indian Army tweet

I can see the upcoming documentary now…

😉

Larry Cohen (1936-2019)

Not familiar with the name?

He created many fascinating works, both as director and writer. Some of his bigger/most famous works include It’s Alive (1974)…

The movie proved popular enough to merit two sequels! He also directed Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)…

But Mr. Cohen wasn’t just a director, he also wrote plenty of material. He is listed as the creator of the paranoid alien invasion TV series The Invaders (1967-68)…

He was the screenwriter for the pretty bonkers Armand Assanti starring Mike Hammer film I, The Jury

Mr. Cohen passes away at 82 late last month. Looking over his IMDB listings, I’m impressed with the amount of material he had his hands on/in. True, some of the works have lost the edge they once had, but still, what a fascinating career!

Do heroes kill…?

In what is sure to create further controversy, director Zack Snyder, when asked about the fact that he had Batman kill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, made some rather strong statements concerning this topic.

As written by Charles Pullman-Moore and presented on i09.com, the article’s title will give you an idea of Mr. Snyder’s thoughts on that subject:

Zack Snyder wants you to “Wake the fuck up” and accept that Batman kills people

Part of what made BvS so controversial was its generally grim tone and, yes, the fact that Batman sure does seem to murder a bunch of bad guys in the film.

To be fair, he does so because they are very actively trying to murder him, so its not like he’s simply shooting them in the back when they’re, say, loading up some questionable merchandise inside a van or something.

But it does bring up an issue I personally have wrestled with concerning heroes: Should they kill?

James Bond, famously, had a “license to kill”. As presented, one would think that he would have no qualms doing what I proposed above, ie killing a badguy no matter what they were currently up to. If they’re loading a van or taking a walk on the beach, if British Intelligence views the person as a major danger to England/the World, and he has a “license to kill”, one could theoretically understand that if it is imperative to kill the badguy, you do so, no questions asked.

Clint Eastwood’s many “heroes” were often darker as well. Starting with the so-called “spaghetti” westerns of the 1960’s and going on to Dirty Harry in the 1970’s and 80’s, you had a darker variation of the “good guy” who might well shoot a badguy, whether while confronting said individual or offing them when they weren’t necessarily a threat to you at that moment.

But what about superheroes? What about heroes that aren’t supposed to be so damn dark, character-wise? Batman, while indeed a “dark” character, has been portrayed very often as not wanting to use a gun, though in his very earliest comic book appearances did indeed do so, and did indeed kill badguys…

The above opening page of a story shows Batman with a weapon. Here, he uses it… albeit to kill a vampire:

Image result for batman with gun golden age

Here he uses not just a gun, but a machine gun, to off some badguys…

Note what Batman says in the above panel: “Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time its necessary!”

So, yeah, early, very early Batman could be as merciless in killing badguys just as his primary inspiration, the pulp hero The Shadow, did as well…

Image result for the shadow pulp covers

But very soon after Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and in issue #38 of Detective Comics, Batman was given a partner, the dashing Robin…

Image result for when did Robin first appear

I think its arguable that the introduction of this character put Batman over the top and sealed his transition from a superhero version of The Shadow into something new and exciting to audiences. Suddenly readers had an avatar, a young daredevil they could grasp and, vicariously, have their adventures through.

The tone of the Batman stories from that point on grew lighter and lighter, and Batman no longer mercilessly killed the badguys (though there were some “accidental” deaths still to come) until, soon enough, it was established that Batman DID NOT KILL, period.

In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, darkness crept back into the Batman character. The fine work of writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams redefined the Batman character and brought us a version closer to what came early on, though the character still did not use weapons and still did not murder the badguys…

Image result for batman secret of the waiting graves

And so it was, roughly, a short time time later I first became familiar with these various characters.

In my very young mind, I felt that superheroes did NOT kill. If anyone perished in the course of a story, the hero tried their best to not kill anyone, even if they were despicable in their actions and very much deserved that fate. Heroes were, IMHO, people who found ways around such actions.

Then came Population Zero, the first episode of The Six Million Dollar Man’s regular series, first aired on January 18, 1974, and this terrific, and confusing to my very young mind, ending…

The plot of the episode, to be frank, was something of a rip off of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. In that novel (and subsequent film adaptation), an entire small town is suddenly found dead with two exceptions, and it turns out some intergalactic virus is to blame… and this bug needs to be neutralized or it might spell the doom of the human race.

In Population Zero, the villain uses a sound machine (as you can see from the video) and it turns out the scientist behind it lost funds for his project because of the Bionic Man project. He obviously harbors deep anger and is determined to show that his weapon should have been given the proper funds. In the meantime, he tries to kill off the Bionic Man and then Oscar Goldman and the entire army base outside the town he initially attacked.

Steve Austin, the Bionic Man, gets away from his deathtrap and runs to where you see him. He realizes the mad scientist will kill a lot of innocent people and pulls up the metal fence post and, using it as a javelin, spears their truck, killing the scientist and his henchmen.

This really messed with my mind back then.

For it seemed to me Steve Austin could have run over to the truck and, I dunno, turned it over or something. He could have thrown the javelin at the electrical cables the bad guy was using to charge up his weapon and therefore rendered the sonic weapon inoperative.

No, he deliberately targeted the truck and by spearing it caused it to explode and kill everyone.

I’ve defended Batman v Superman more times than I care to and still believe this film will experience a re-evaluation in time and come to be viewed as far better than the early critics and fans felt it was.

And I have little problem accepting that Batman kills the bad guys both when he chases them in his Batmobile and later on when he’s trying to save Martha Kent.

Why?

Because if you truly, truly think through both scenarios, he’s quite literally fighting for his life. In the first scenario he’s being shot at with heavy weaponry. A lucky shot and his vehicle -and himself- is toast. It’s a high speed chase and very dangerous to not only Batman, but to anyone else who might be around that dock area.

Should Batman aim for the tires? Sure, but realistically, that a damn hard shot to make.

In the warehouse fight, the same applies. It’s one guy against a large number. In “real life” you need to take these dudes out and quick because if you don’t, you may die. So Batman can’t play nice while the bad guys here are using guns, knives, and whatever else they have to take him out. He has to fight back.

Hard.

Still, the little boy I was does feel a certain apprehension about the idea of a good guy, especially a superhero, resorting to killing and, at least in my stories, I’ve tried to show the consequences of killing (particularly in Mechanic) while also trying not to have my characters depicted as favoring killing first to deal with bad guys.

There truly is no answer, I suppose, and your opinions on this matter will certainly be guided by the literature/stories/TV shows/movies you’ve grown up with.

The quiet passing of Jan-Michael Vincent…

Yesterday it was reported that actor Jan-Michael Vincent had passed away on February 10th, almost a month ago, at the age of 73.

There are those who may know nothing about Jan-Michael Vincent. Here’s a trailer from The Mechanic, one of the movies he co-starred in with Charles Bronson back in 1972 and which I remember him best for…

The movie would be re-made later with Jason Statham in the Bronson role but , IMHO, it didn’t hold a candle to the original film and completely wiffed on what made the original so good: The ending.

Jan-Michael Vincent would appear in several movies, many of which may be classified as B films but were enjoyable nonetheless, throughout the 1970’s. He nonetheless established himself well enough that when he made the move to TV and the series Airwolf in 1984, he reportedly earned $200,000 per episode, an amount that made him one of the highest paid actors on TV at the time.

Alas, he was simultaneously spiraling out of control in a vicious cycle of drugs and alcohol which ultimately led to him becoming an undesirable in the field he worked in, as well as endangering his life.

Many of the details (and they are quite sad) can be read in this article about Mr. Vincent’s passing as written by David Moye and presented on Huffingtonpost.com:

Actor Jan-Michael Vincent Dead at 73

At the risk of paraphrasing the article, Mr. Vincent was in a major car accident in 1996 which resulted in him breaking his neck and injuring his vocal cords. In 2000 he was ordered to pay over $350,000 to a girlfriend he assaulted and who subsequently miscarried. He also spent 60 days in jail at that time due to violating his probation regarding alcohol related convictions. In 2008 he had another car accident and developed a leg infection. The lower right leg had to be amputated.

Mr. Vincent, who once looked like this…

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Was photographed later in life and after all that hard living looking like this…

Image result for jan-michael vincent

I don’t mean to put these images there to shock you. Again, it saddens me tremendously to see Mr. Vincent in these later in life pictures.

While he may not have been one of the greatest actors out there, as a child of the 1970’s and 80’s, he was a near constant in theaters and on TV.

I loved The Mechanic. So much so that when I wrote this novel, which was released before the Jason Statham remake of the movie, I used that title. Yeah, I suppose I stole it, though to be fair the term “mechanic” was well known as slang for a hitman/mercenary. Still, when I used the title I didn’t think many would remember that old film…


I also loved Mr. Vincent in Damnation Alley, a post-apocalyptic thriller that also featured George Peppard…

And, yeah, I really enjoyed him on Airwolf

Seeing him in that photo above, broken down, old, missing the lower half of his right leg, makes me incredibly sad.

I suppose in the end its one of those cautionary tales. You can have everything in life, success, money, looks… and yet still throw them away.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vincent. Despite it all, I’ll remember the joy you brought me in your roles.