“SUNSET” (1988) Review

james-garner-bruce-willis

“SUNSET” (1988) Review

Bruce Willis and James Garner co-starred in this period piece murder mystery about famous Western movie star Tom Mix and former Old West lawman Wyatt Earp solving a case in 1929 Hollywood. Written and directed by Blake Edwards (“PINK PANTHER” and “VICTOR/VICTORIA”), the movie was based upon Rod Amateau’s novel of the same title.

The movie begins with studio boss Alfie Alperin (Malcolm McDowell) assigning Tom Mix to star in a movie about Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He even hires Earp to act as the film’s technical adviser. The two legends become good friends before getting caught up in a real case that involved prostitution, corruption and the murder of a Hollywood madam. And Alperin’s step-son Michael (Dermot Mulroney) becomes the police’s main suspect. Alperin’s wife and Michael’s mother Christina (Patricia Hodge) recruits Earp (an old flame) and Mix to help her son by finding the real killer.

Let me be frank. “SUNSET” is at best, a mediocre film. It is filled with cinematic clichés, plot twists that either do not make any sense or come off as predictable, and some rather bad dialogue. Surprisingly, one of the worst offenders turns out to be Bruce Willis. I am not accusing him of bad acting. On the contrary, I believe that he gave a pretty damn good performance. Unfortunately, Willis was forced to deal with some pretty atrocious dialogue, thanks to writer/director Blake Edwards. Honestly . . . the poor man came off sounding like a California surfer circa 1985, instead of a Hollywood cowboy from the 1920s. Perhaps if Edwards had refrained from including the term “dude” into Mix’s dialogue, Willis could have emerged from the movie unscathed.

However, Willis was not the only cast member who suffered in this movie. The director’s daughter, Jennifer Edwards, did not fare any better as Victoria Alperin, Alfie’s sister. Poor Ms. Edwards. A year later, she would give a wonderful performance as a ditzy secretary in the 1989 remake of the 1950s television classic, “PETER GUNN”. But in “SUNSET”, her Victoria Alperin seemed even more out of place in this 1920s tale than Willis’ Tom Mix. Her performance struck me as petulant and unnecessarily brittle. I could not help but think she would have fared better in a guest appearance on “MIAMI VICE” as the brittle wife of some drug dealer or corrupt businessman. Honestly. Actor Joe Dallesandro portrayed Dutch Kieffer, a take on the famous gangster, Dutch Schultz. Granted, he did a competent job in adding menace to the character. Unfortunately . . . his demeanor seemed more suited to a character in something like “BARETTA” or “STARSKY AND HUTCH”. Like Ms. Edwards, he seemed even more out of place in this movie than Willis. But the one person who truly seemed out of place in “SUNSET” was character actor M. Emmet Walsh. Poor Mr. Walsh. He had the bad luck to portray the chief security officer of Alperin Studios, Marvin Dibner. If there was one character who seemed unnecessary to the story, it was him. Honestly, his character could have easily been deleted. Instead of creating another addition to his gallery of interesting supporting roles, poor Mr. Walsh popped up in every other scene, wearing a dumb expression.

Fortunately, “SUNSET” could boast some good, solid performances. Despite some of the bad dialogue dumped on him, Bruce Willis had the good luck to be teamed with James Garner. Between Garner’s earthy performance as the legendary lawman and Willis’ cocky take on the famous Western star, the pair managed to create an electrifying screen team. Kathleen Quinlan made a nice addition to the cast as the sly and humorous Nancy Shoemaker, one of Alperin Studios’ publicists. Mariel Hemingway had been nominated for a Razzie Award as Worst Supporting Actress for her role as the daughter of the murdered madam. This nomination merely confirmed my belief that the Razzie Awards are full of shit. I thought Hemingway gave a good, solid performance and had a nice chemistry with Garner. Richard Bradford, fresh from his role in 1987’s “THE UNTOUCHABLES”, gave a convincingly venomous portrayal of a corrupt cop named “Dirty” Bernie Blackworth . . . despite some questionable dialogue. Patricia Hodge and Dermot Mulroney portrayed Christina Alperin and her son, Michael. They gave competent performances, but I found nothing memorable about them. And of course, there was Malcolm McDowell portraying Alfie Alperin, the movie comedian-turned-studio head. It is obvious that Alperin is based upon Hollywood icon Charlie Chaplin. I can only wonder if Chaplin was as cruel and sadistic as the Alperin character. Thankfully, McDowell did not use the character’s negative traits as an excuse for an over-the-top performance. His Alfie Alperin came off as warm, clever, charming and most importantly, quietly menacing.

Plot wise, “SUNSET” turned out to be another one of those murder mysteries set in Old Hollywood. And yes, it was filled with the usual clichés and name droppings. I would reveal the killer’s identity, but I suspect that anyone with a brain would guess within forty minutes into the story. Or make a close guess. The only difference from this Hollywood mystery and others was that the two investigators turned out to be famous figures and not some Los Angeles detective or minor studio employee. Speaking of Earp and Mix, many film critics pointed out that the two had never met in real life. As it turned out, they did meet and Mix had served as a pallbearer at Earp’s funeral. Talk about an egg in the face. However . . . Earp did pass away two months before the movie’s setting. And Mix was at least seventeen years older than Willis’ true age during the movie’s production.

If there is one aspect about “SUNSET” that I must commend, it is the film’s artistic designs. Patricia Norris beautifully re-captured the 1920s in her Academy Award nominated costumes. Hell, I could say the same about Richard Haman’s art direction, Marvin March’s set decorations and especially Rodger Maus’ production designs. Thanks to these four artisans,“SUNSET” fairly reeked of the slightly corrupt gloss of late 1920s Hollywood.

“SUNSET” is such a mediocre film that there are times I wonder why I like it. Some of the characters seemed out of place in the 1929 setting. M. Emmet Walsh was practically wasted in his role as a studio security chief. The movie was filled with some atrocious dialogue. And to be honest, the plot came off as so predictable that it almost seemed easy to pinpoint the killer’s identity. So why did I bother to watch this movie? Why did I bother to purchase a used VHS copy of the movie, several years ago? Despite its obvious flaws, I rather like “SUNSET”. Willis and Garner literally lit up the screen as a charismatic duo, McDowell made a fantastic villain and the movie did feature some witty dialogue. But most importantly,”SUNSET” was drenched in a late 1920s setting thanks to such work from artisans like Rodger Maus’ production designs and Patricia Norris’ costumes.

Scotch Egg

Below is an article about the British snack known as Scotch Egg:

 

SCOTCH EGG

When I first learned about the dish known as Scotch Egg, I had assumed that it had originated in Scotland. Silly me. Basically a snack, the Scotch Egg is usually served at picnics or inside pubs. Today, the Scotch Egg can be found at supermarkets, corner shops and motorway service stations throughout Great Britain. Here in the United States, they can be found at British-style pubs and eateries. They are usually served with hot dipping sauces such as ranch dressing, hot sauce, or hot mustard sauce.

Many food historians claim that the exact origin of the Scotch Egg is unknown. Many believe that it might be a descendant of a form of the Mughlai dish called “nargisi kofta”. However, the London Department store, Fortnum & Mason, claims it was inspired by the “nargisi kofta” and invented the Scotch Egg in 1738.

The recipe for the Scotch Egg first appeared in the 1809 edition of Mrs. Rundell’s 1806 cookbook, “A New System of Domestic Cookery”. Mrs. Rundell and later 19th-century cookbook authors usually instructed their readers to served the Scotch Eggs hot and with gravy.

Below is a recipe from the Allrecipes.com website:

Scotch Egg

Ingredients

1 quart oil for frying

4 eggs

2 pounds pork sausage

4 cups dried bread crumbs, seasoned

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs, beaten

Preparations

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Place eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let eggs sit in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool and peel.

Flatten the sausage and make a patty to surround each egg. Very lightly flour the sausage and coat with beaten egg. Roll in bread crumbs to cover evenly.

Deep fry until golden brown, or pan fry while making sure each side is well cooked. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Cut in half and serve over a bed of lettuce and sliced tomatoes for garnish. If mustard is desired it looks beautiful over this.

“In the Wake of Valhalla” [PG-13] – 1/1

“IN THE WAKE OF VALHALLA”

RATING: PG-13 Adult language.
SUMMARY: Olivia McNeill learns about the Charmed Ones experiences in Valhalla, and its effect upon Darryl Morris. AU response to “The Valhalley of the Dolls”.
FEEDBACK: – Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Darryl Morris and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills are thankfully, my creations.
NOTE: The story picks up about three weeks after “The Half-Blood Demon”

————-

“IN THE WAKE OF VALHALLA”

Flight 910 from Miami, Florida landed at the San Francisco International Airport without a hitch. Nearly twenty minutes later, the flight’s passengers – among them, Olivia McNeill – disembarked and made their way into the airport terminal.

The moment Olivia entered the terminal; she rushed straight into the arms of the tall, dark-haired man who waited for her. “Hey! Welcome back,” Cole murmured, before covering her mouth for a long kiss.

Once the couple’s lips parted, Olivia gazed warmly at her lover. “Wow! That’s a hell of a greeting, considering that we last saw each other only three nights ago. When you popped up in Miami.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Cole replied before planting another kiss on Olivia’s mouth. “Even after three days.”

Olivia chuckled, as she and Cole linked arms and strolled out of the Delta Airlines lounge. After they picked up her luggage, Cole beamed them all back to her apartment. While she began to unpack, Olivia asked if anything had happened since they last saw one another.

“Not much,” Cole replied. “Your mother purchased a new restaurant. Which means that the Golden Horn is now completely in Bruce’s hands. I haven’t heard from Darryl in the past three days. Some radio station had hosted some kind of beach party in honor Phoebe’s work at the BAY-MIRROR. I was invited, but I wasn’t interested. Besides, I didn’t want to deal with your old ‘buddy’, Jason Dean, who was.” The half-daemon winced slightly.

“Jason’s not . . .” Olivia broke off, realizing that she was about to contradict herself. “Never mind.”

Cole continued, “Harry and Paige went on another date.”

“Did they go to Phoebe’s beach party?” Olivia asked, as she removed a pair of pants from her suitcase.

Chuckling, Cole replied, “Oh no. Both of them managed to avoid it. By the way, Leo’s back. And Piper’s no longer acting like a Stepford wife.” Just before her trip to Miami, Olivia’s former whitelighter had disappeared. Not even Natalia Stepanova, one of Leo’s colleagues and now a friend of Olivia’s, had no idea of his whereabouts.

Olivia glanced up. “Piper and Leo are back together?”

“Nope. He’s still an Elder in the Whitelighter Realm.” Cole frowned. “Leo thinks that Chris was responsible for his disappearance.”

“What?”

Looking slightly amused, Cole added, “That new whitelighter. According to Paige, Leo thinks that Chris had arranged for him to be trapped in Valhalla.” His amusement disappeared. “Of course, I don’t blame Leo for his suspicions. Ever since I met Chris, I’ve had this feeling that he doesn’t like Leo. And for personal reasons.”

Olivia stared at the half-daemon. “You too? I’ve always wondered what he has against Leo.” She paused, as she removed the last item from her suitcase. “You know, there’s also something familiar about him. About Chris, I mean. I just can’t put my finger on it.” Then she added, “Did you say . . . Valhalla?”

Cole shook his head. “I don’t know all the details, but Paige told me that Leo believes that Chris had arranged for him to be trapped in Valhalla. You know, I had the feeling that Paige was holding something back. Even Harry seems to think so. Oh, by the way . . .” Cole paused and gave Olivia a knowing look. “Phoebe has a third power.”

Olivia removed her suitcase from her bed. “Oh really? What is it?”

“Empathy. I’m sure I don’t have to describe what that means.”

With a sigh, Olivia said, “Oh God. I can just see her reading people’s feelings left and right. And broadcasting her knowledge. Looks like the Halliwells have a Deanna Troi in their midst. Must be a bitch for her to control it.”

“According to Paige, Phoebe has started using meditation to control it.” Cole added, “But she’s also considering a potion to prevent her from reading everyone else’s emotion. Harry plans to refuse the potion. He thinks she should stick to meditation. And not broadcast everyone’s emotions out loud.”

Olivia smirked. “Good for Harry.” She glanced at Cole. “What about you?”

The half-daemon sighed. “I’ve been avoiding her. Which hasn’t been that difficult, considering how we had parted nearly a month ago. And that’s all the news for the week. You have any more trips to Miami planned?”

“Probably two more. The next one won’t happen until January, I think. Or February. Or maybe later.”

“Good.” Cole stood up and drew Olivia into his arms. “I don’t think I like sharing you with the U.S. Justice Department. Even for a few days out of several months.”

Sliding her arms around Cole’s neck, Olivia murmured, “I heartily agree.” Then she sighed with pleasure before lowering her mouth upon Cole’s.

———-

The following morning, Olivia arrived at her place of work – one of San Francisco’s many police stations. A member of her squad, Scott Yi, was among the first to welcome her back. “Well, look who’s here!” he crowed. “Hail the conquering heroine!”

Olivia rolled her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“Your testimony against Alexis Gurov, of course! Looks like the bastard will finally be spending some time behind bars.”

Snorting with derision, Olivia added, “Yeah, but for how long? He’s just a local businessman. Do you really think the Federal courts will give him a stiff sentence?”

Scott replied, “A local businessman . . . with ties to a Columbian drug cartel headed by Manny Serrano? Gurov may not have previous record, but the Feds – thanks to you – have him on some serious shit. You bet they’ll give him a stiff sentence.”

Olivia sniffed. “I’ll bet you ten bucks that his sentence won’t be that severe.” She paused. “By the way, I heard the news. About the Leung brothers’ arrests. Good work.”

The younger inspector dismissed Olivia’s praise with a shrug of his shoulders. “It was nothing. Well . . . the arrest wasn’t all that difficult.” He paused and glanced around the squad room. Then he summoned Olivia with his finger. She walked over to his desk. “Listen, something happened to Darryl after he had arrested George Leung. I don’t know what, but I think it had something to do with those three witches who are friends of his. The Halliwells?”

“Did anyone else find out?” a concerned Olivia asked.

Scott indicated the closed door on the left side of the room. It led to Captain McPherson’s office. “Darryl is with the captain, right now. Giving him a verbal report on the arrest.” Scott paused. “I don’t know how to describe this. Some strange women dressed like extras from “HERCULES” and “XENA” had appeared out of nowhere and attacked us. Darryl got hurt. So did one of the Leung brothers. I think the Halliwells managed to take care of them. But Darryl . . .” Scott broke off, as McPherson’s door opened.

Darryl walked into the squad room. As he strode toward his desk, he glanced up and noticed Olivia standing near Scott’s desk. “Hey, welcome back,” he greeted with less than his usual enthusiasm. “How was Miami?”

Olivia exchanged a brief glance with Scott, before she joined her partner at his desk. “Not bad. Pleasant weather, except for a little rain during the last two days. No major hurricanes, thank goodness.” She settled in the chair, next to Darryl’s desk. “Scott tells me that the squad managed to arrest the Leung brothers.”

Flashing a wan smile, Darryl replied, “Yeah. Just a bunch of cops doing their jobs.” He paused. “I supposed that Scott told you about me being attacked by those women.”

“Yeah, he did.” Olivia paused to peer closely at her partner. “How did you explain it to McPherson?

With a sigh, Darryl revealed that he told Captain McPherson a story about the squad encountering a female biker gang, dressed up in costumes, the night they had arrested the Leungs. “Hey, this is San Francisco. Anything can happen. Of course, the Captain was a little pissed that we didn’t arrest any of the women, but he seemed willing to let it slide. Especially since we have the Leung brothers behind bars.”

“Is that what you and the Captain were talking about? Those women?”

Darryl curtly replied, “No.” Olivia stared at him. Then, “I mean . . . we were discussing a new case. You’ll find a copy of the file on your desk.”

Olivia stood up. “Oh. Okay. At least everything ended well.”

Darryl focused his eyes upon the contents on his desk. “Yeah. Just peachy keen.”

Her partner’s acerbic tone led Olivia to ask, “Darryl? Is there something else wrong?”

He glanced up with dark eyes that looked blank. Emotionless. “I’m fine,” he replied innocently. “By the way, have you bought Stefan Kostopulos’ shop, yet?” Darryl referred to an antiquity shop in the downtown area that had been the scene of a murder, nearly two months ago.

“Not yet. I have to get it appraised. Why?”

A sigh left Darryl’s mouth. “Nothing. Just wondering. Don’t forget the file on your desk.”

Olivia replied, “Yeah, I’ll get on it, right away.” She sat down behind her desk and opened the file. The latter provided general information on the murder of a nightclub owner named Brad Everett. A quick glance at her partner told Olivia that he seemed perturbed about something. And sooner or later, she will find out. After all, she can be patient.

———-

Later that afternoon, Olivia parked her BMW into an available space not far from the Halliwell manor. Before her trip to Miami, she had lent one of her favorite blouses to Paige. And now she wanted it back.

After climbing out of her car, Olivia climbed the manor’s stoop and rang the doorbell. She did not have long to wait before Piper Halliwell opened the front door. “Olivia,” the other witch greeted with mild surprise. “I didn’t know that you were back in town.”

“Didn’t Paige say anything?” Olivia replied. “Harry knew. I guess I had assumed that he would tell her.”

Piper stepped back and allowed the redhead to enter the manor. “So, when did you get back?”

Olivia said, “Yesterday evening. Cole picked me up from the airport.”

“I’m surprised that he didn’t give you a lift all the way from Miami.”

With a shrug, Olivia explained that the Justice Department had provided plane tickets and hotel reservations to her precinct. “I would have had a hard time explaining how I had traveled from Miami to San Francisco, without using the tickets they had provided.” She glanced around the living room. “Uh, is Paige home?”

“Yeah. Just a minute.” Piper turned toward the staircase and bellowed, “Paige! Olivia is here!” The redhead winced from the volume.

Soon, footsteps on the staircase announced the appearance of the youngest Charmed One. She greeted the visitors with a friendly, “Hey! When did you get back?”

“Yesterday,” Olivia said with a mild frown. “Didn’t Harry tell you?”

“I guess he forgot.” A sly smile curved Paige’s lips. “So, how was the ‘Land of the Great Boob Job’? Meet any plastic surgeons?”

Olivia rolled her eyes in disgust. “More than I care to count. I may have encountered more plastic surgeons than can be found in Beverly Hills and Switzerland, combined. One of them tried to get both Cole and me to sign up as patients.”

“Cole?” The middle Charmed One appeared in the living room. “He was in Miami?”

Olivia struggled to maintain a friendly smile. “Hi Phoebe. Yeah, he had dropped by to see me at least twice. The last time was about three days ago.”

“Oh.” Phoebe’s face assumed a pleasant mask. “Well . . . it’s nice to have you back.”

“Thanks.” Olivia literally had to force the word out of her mouth. She turned to Paige. “By the way, do you have my blouse? You know, the one I had let you borrow before my trip?”

Paige sighed. “You want it back.”

Olivia smiled. “If you don’t mind.”

“Be back in a minute.” Paige raced upstairs.

Meanwhile, Olivia found herself alone with the other two Halliwells. Unfortunately. With a polite smile fixed on her face, she asked Piper, “How are you feeling?”

“Huh?” Piper blinked.

“Well, before I had left, you were acting a little strange. Like one of the Stepford Wives. You seemed . . . well, normal right now.”

Piper sighed. “Oh yeah. Uh, Leo had . . . cast this little spell on me. Something to ‘take away my pain’. Only . . .” She paused. “Only, it took away a lot more.”

“Like your personality?” Olivia suggested. Piper frowned. “Honey, you were almost part of the Borg Collective. Did Leo . . .?” Olivia hesitated. “Did you know that he was going to cast that spell?”

Piper groaned. “Oh. Yeah. Yeah, I knew he was going to cast it. In fact, I had given him permission to do it.” One of Olivia’s brows formed an arch. “Yeah, I know it was a stupid thing to do, but I was so desperate . . .” She gave Olivia a shrewd look. “You still haven’t forgiven him for that spell Paul Whatshisname had cast, haven’t you?”

Olivia stiffened. “No, I haven’t.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Phoebe added, “You’re going to hold a grudge against Leo forever?”

Olivia stared at Phoebe. “Let’s see. Should I continue to hold a grudge against Leo . . . who had recruited a fellow witch to violate my mind with a spell so that I could murder Cole in cold blood? Hmmm . . . why not? I don’t recall Leo expressing any remorse for his actions, as of the moment. Do you? He probably still believes that he had done the right thing.”

“But still, can’t you . . .?”

At that moment, Paige appeared downstairs with Olivia’s lime green blouse. “Here you go.” She handed the item to the redhead . . . very reluctantly. “Can I hold on to it, a little longer?”

“Nope,” Olivia replied with a smile. “If I did, I probably won’t ever see it again. Why don’t you buy one for yourself?”

Paige rolled her eyes. “Yeah right. And give up one-sixth of my weekly income?”

“Put it on layaway.” Olivia draped the blouse over her arm. “Anyway, I’ll see you all later.” As she started toward the front door, a thought came to her and she paused. “By the way, Cole told me about your little adventure in Valhalla, to rescue Leo. How did you manage to get there in the first place?”

Both Paige and Phoebe exchanged wary looks. “What do you mean?” the latter asked.

Olivia closely eyed the pair. “How did you get to Valhalla? What do you think I meant?”

“We had disguised ourselves as those warrior women, of course,” Paige answered.

“Valkryies?”

The youngest Charmed One nodded. “Yeah. That’s it.”

Recalling her knowledge of the Valhalla myth, Olivia added, “But in order to reach Valhalla as a Valkryie, you would have to arrive with the soul of a warrior. Or something like that. And since Leo was already there . . .” She paused. “Did you use Chris’ soul? I’m surprised that he would allow you to use his soul, considering . . .” She shook her head. “Never mind. I guess Chris had allowed you to use his soul.”

Paige’s dark eyes widened. “Uh . . . no. No, but he did help us with . . . with those Valkryies. When they ended up here.”

“Yeah. Darryl told me about his encounter with one or two of them.” Olivia paused. “But how . . . I mean, how were you able to enter Valhalla without a warrior’s soul?”

Paige hesitated. “Well . . .”

Piper spoke up. “What are you two being shy about? I thought you had used Darryl’s soul to get us into Valhalla.”

Olivia’s eyes narrowed. “Darryl’s soul? He never said anything about that. You mean that he had actually volunteered his soul to help you save Leo?”

“Why do you find that so hard to believe?” Phoebe demanded. “We had to use Darryl’s soul to enter Valhalla. End of story. Right Paige?”

The youngest Charmed One remained silent. A dark suspicion entered Olivia’s mind. Darryl’s distant behavior. Paige and Phoebe’s evasiveness. It all seemed to be adding up. “Wait a minute. Darryl did volunteer to help. Right?”

Piper shrugged. “I don’t know. I was half-zonked, thanks to Leo’s spell and Paige’s counter spell.”

Olivia turned to Paige and Phoebe. “Well?”

An exasperated huff escaped from Phoebe’s mouth. “This is ridiculous! Why are you giving us the . . .?”

“All right!” Paige cried out, interrupting her sister. “Phoebe and I did ask Darryl for his help, but he refused. Okay? So we . . .” She hesitated. “We took his soul anyway, using a potion. But Darryl didn’t seem to mind after it was all over. He even said so. Although I think that being attacked by one of those Valkryies in this plane bo . . .” Her voice died down under Olivia’s horrified expression. “What?”

“Oh my . . . Oh my God!” Olivia cried out in disbelief. “You took his soul? My God! No wonder Darryl was acting strange, today!”

Shaking her head, Phoebe demanded, “What do you mean? Paige said that Darryl was only bothered by the Valkryies’ attack. Why are you making such a big deal about Darryl’s soul? Okay, we took it without his consent. But everything came out okay in the end.”

Olivia regarded Phoebe with pure disgust and contempt. “Wha . . . what in the fuck are you doing? Why are you standing there, making excuses? Do you have any idea of what you two had done?”

Paige’s face grew paler. “C’mon Olivia! We had no choice! Don’t you think that you’re . . .”?

“Making a big deal out of it?” Phoebe finished. “I think so. Yes, we took Darryl’s soul without his consent. We didn’t like it, but it was necessary. How else could we get into Valhalla and rescue Leo?”

“Rescue Leo? For crying out . . .” The redhead glared at the two sisters. “I don’t know whether to regard you two as stupid, or just a pair of truly callous fucks! Are you listening to yourselves? You took Darryl’s soul without his permission! Don’t you understand? You had violated his body and spirit . . . and now you’re making excuses! You know what? In our circle, that’s called psychic rape!”

A mixture of discomfort and annoyance flitted across Phoebe’s face. “Okay. Now, you’re really exaggerating.”

“No Phoebe, I’m not! Why do you think I’m pissed off at Leo? Why do you think I had asked Piper if she had given him permission to cast that spell on her? You and Paige had used magic on an innocent man! A close friend, for crying out loud! Without his consent! Magic that had caused him harm! Hasn’t that penetrated that fuck-addled brain of yours, yet?”

A wide-eyed Phoebe stared at the red-haired witch. “I . . . but Darryl . . .”

“Oh yes! Darryl!” Olivia retorted derisively. “He quickly forgave you for that whole pile of shit you had dumped on him, didn’t he?” Shaking her head in disbelief, she added, “Does that mean it’s okay to easily dismiss what you had done? And by the way, Darryl is pissed off about what happened. He’s just keeping it to himself, because as usual, he doesn’t want to rock the boat!”

Phoebe shot back, “But it was for the greater . . .”

“Oh spare me that ‘greater good’ bullshit!” Olivia shot back. “That’s the same excuse that Leo had used for getting Paul to cast that spell on me. Nothing – and I mean nothing in the world can excuse what you had done to Darryl. So what if Leo was trapped in Valhalla! That did not give you the right to steal Darryl’s soul! Who in the fuck do you think you are to play God with someone’s life like that?”

The two younger Charmed Ones exchanged uneasy looks. “I . . . I guess we should talk to Darryl,” Paige murmured. “Again.”

“Oh gee, you think?” Olivia heaved a sigh and shook her head. “Goddess! I’m out of here. I’ll see you all later.” She shot the two Charmed Ones one last dark look. “Maybe.” Then she turned her heels and marched out of the manor in disgust.

———

The doorbell to the Morris residence rang. Darryl reluctantly tore his gaze away from the computer screen and stood up. “I’ll get it!” he cried to his wife, who was busy inside the kitchen, washing dishes. He made his way to the front door and opened it. Outside stood two of the Charmed Ones – Phoebe and Paige. He struggled to maintain a friendly countenance. “Ladies! What are you doing here?”

After a long pause, Paige replied, “Hey Darryl. Uh . . .” She glanced uneasily at Phoebe. “Uh, how are you?”

Darryl frowned. “Fine. What’s this visit about?”

Again, the two sisters exchanged glances. Phoebe sighed. “Listen, Olivia had told us that you weren’t in a good mood, today. And after we told her about what happened in Valhalla . . .”

“. . . she figured out why,” Paige finished. “Why you weren’t . . . in a . . . good mood.” She looked away.

Darryl stiffened. The last thing he wanted to discuss or even think about was Valhalla. Today had been bad enough, when Olivia had mentioned it. “What do you mean?” he coolly asked.

Phoebe cried out, “Oh God! You are pissed about what happened! Aren’t you? I can feel it!”

“Phoebe . . .”

“Why didn’t you say something, Darryl?” the middle Charmed One continued.

The question turned out to be the last straw for Darryl. “Hey, I have a question. Why did you do it, in the first place?” he snapped. “Why did you use that potion on me?”

“We needed to get Leo . . .”

Darryl interrupted, “Why didn’t you simply call for that new whitelighter of yours? Chris! I mean, if you needed a soul that badly! Why pick me?”

“You were . . .” Paige’s voice dropped to a murmur, “. . . convenient.”

Convenient. Darryl could not help but shake his head at the irony of it all. He had to admit that the word best described his relationship with the Halliwells. Sure, they had treated him as a friend. A close friend, at that. But they have also treated him as a “convenient” lap dog, whenever they found themselves in trouble with the law. But this last incident – ripping out his soul from his body without his permission . . .

“You know what Paige?” Darryl finally said. “If that’s all I am to you – convenient – why are we continuing this friendship?”

Phoebe sighed. “Darryl . . .”

“No Phoebe. Let me finish.” Darryl paused, shaking his head. “Maybe I should have been more honest about my feelings. About what you had done to me – ripping out my soul and leaving my body in that alley. But what you had done wasn’t the act of a friend. Considering all I had done for you during the past four years. It hurts. In fact, I could have ended up dead, thanks to you.”

Paige took a deep breath. “We understand, Darryl. We really do. And I’m sorry about what happened. Very sorry. Right Phoebe?”

The middle Charmed One lowered her eyes and mumbled. “Yeah. We didn’t . . .” A sigh left her mouth. “We didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Nodding his head, Darryl said, “Yeah, okay. I’ll accept this apology. For once. But the next time . . . I don’t know.” He started to turn away. “Well, goodnight.”

“No late night coffee?” Paige asked with a hint of desperate humor.

Darryl stared at her. “Not tonight. I have work, tomorrow. Maybe some other time.”

“Oh.” Paige glanced away.

Phoebe gave the police officer a strained smile. “Well . . . goodnight.”

“Bye.” Darryl closed the door, unable to prolong the strained visit any longer.

———–

Wednesday morning dawned when Darryl arrived at the precinct twenty minutes later than usual. Olivia greeted her partner with a frown. “Wow! This is unusual. Darryl Morris, late for work?” The police lieutenant smiled at his partner, before placing a white envelope on her desk. “What’s that?”

“A thank you present,” Darryl replied. He sat down behind his desk. “For giving me the opportunity to remove my head from my ass. Phoebe and Paige had paid me a visit, last night.”

“Oh.” Olivia nodded. “Glad to help. Even if you should have told them how you really felt, in the first place.”

With a sigh, Darryl leaned back against his chair. “Yeah, well I don’t even know why I had said nothing. I guess I was just relieved that I had survived the whole thing.” He paused. “And maybe I didn’t feel like rocking the boat. After all, I’ve been a friend of the family for a long time. Besides . . . I don’t think they’ll do something like this, again.”

Olivia merely rolled her eyes.

Darryl frowned at his partner. “What?”

“It’s amazing that after . . . what? Four years? Five? I just find it odd that after knowing them for so long, you still don’t understand them.” Olivia shook her head. “I’ve known the Halliwells a lot longer . . . especially their grandmother and Prue. They’re the type of people who believe in their own goodness. Or at least want to. And people like that have a habit of causing misery for what they believe is the greater good. They usually have a hard time believing that what they are doing is wrong. Or if they do realize it, they usually ignore it in their minds.”

“Look, I think you’ve got them all wrong. They’ve done a lot of good over the past several years. And just because they did this one thing . . .”

“Darryl? Have you forgotten what they had done to Cole?” Olivia gave her partner a hard stare. “They killed him when he was possessed by the Source. They had jumped to the conclusion that he had deliberately chosen evil. They didn’t even bother to wonder how he had become the Source in the first place. Look at what Leo had done to me. He still refuses to admit that what he had done was wrong. And if I hadn’t said something about what happened to you, they would have dismissed the whole matter without another thought. They believe that just because they fight on the side of ‘good’ and are‘protectors of the innocent’, they have the right to do whatever is necessary . . . for the greater good. Without bothering to consider the consequences. They’ve always had trouble accepting responsibility for their actions.” A dark scowl appeared on Olivia’s face. “Prue was like that. So were her mother and grandmother. They all still believe that Victor Bennett was solely responsible for the breakup of his marriage, despite the fact that Patty had never bothered to tell him that she was a witch before their marriage. Or that she was . . . emotionally playing around with her whitelighter, before it became physical. They’re incapable of taking responsibility for their actions.”

Darryl shot back, “And you think this means they’ll do something else in the future?”

“I don’t know. But there’s a good chance.”

Shaking his head, Darryl replied, “No. No, I think they had learned . . .”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth. “Darryl? Why don’t you simply pin a sign on your ass that reads ‘KICK ME’ or ‘DOORMAT’, every time you see them? Personally, I have nothing against a little selfishness every now and then. But that . . . family has redefined the word. Haven’t you noticed that when someone causes harm or pain to someone else close to them, they can be so fucking unforgiving? Like they were to Victor and Cole? And yet . . . when they harm someone – whether that person is close or not – they expect immediate forgiveness. Trust me. Just yesterday, Phoebe was criticizing me for not forgiving Leo.”

“So what are you saying?” Darryl demanded. “I should keep my distance?”

Olivia shook her head. “No, Darryl. But I think you should show a little more self-respect, the next time. Don’t make it so easy for them to get away with their actions.”

“What do you mean . . . the next time?”

“Hel-lo? Have we forgotten what Andy had went through, just before his death?” Darryl stared at Olivia. She nodded. “Yeah, I knew. Hell, Andy had known about my family ever since Bruce’s last year in high school.”

Darryl shook his head in disbelief. “Jesus!”

Olivia continued, “Remember the trouble that Internal Affairs had put him through over four years ago, because of his association with Prue? Have you forgotten how you almost became persona non-gratis with the department, while covering their asses after his death? And after all that, they steal your soul.” Her mouth formed a humorless smirk. “Trust me, sooner or later, they’re going to fuck you over . . . again. The question is – are you going to lie down and accept it? Or not?”

Darryl contemplated Olivia’s last question. And came to the disturbing realization that he did not have an answer.

THE END

“BRIDGE OF SPIES” (2015) Review

“BRIDGE OF SPIES” (2015) Review

Several years ago, I read an article in which Steven Spielberg had expressed a desire to direct a James Bond movie. It has been over a decade since the director had made this comment. And as far as I know, he has only directed two movies that had anything to do with spies – the 2005 movie “MUNICH”, which co-starred the current Bond actor, and his latest film, “BRIDGE OF SPIES”.

Like “MUNICH”, “BRIDGE OF SPIES” is a spy tale with a strong historical background. Based upon Giles Whittell’s 2010 book,“Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War”, the movie centered around the 1960 U-2 Incident and the efforts of attorneyJames B. Donovan to negotiate the exchange of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for the captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel – whom Donovan had unsuccessfully defended from charges of espionage against the United States. Although Whittell’s book focused upon a larger cast of characters involved in the U-2 incident and the famous spy exchange, the screenwriters – Matt Charman, along with Joel and Ethan Coen – and Spielberg tightened their focus upon Donovan’s role in the incident.

It occurred to me that in the past fifteen years, I can only think of five Steven Spielberg-directed movies that I have truly liked. Five out of eleven movies. Hmmmm . . . I do not know if that is good or bad. Fortunately, one of those movies that I managed to embrace was this latest effort, “BRIDGE OF SPIES”. I enjoyed it very much. I would not rank it at the same level as “MUNICH” or“LINCOLN”. But I thought it was a pretty solid movie for a director of Spielberg’s caliber. The latter and the movie’s screenwriters made the intelligent choice to focus on one particular person involved in the entire incident – James B. Donovan. If they had attempted to cover every aspect of Whittell’s book, Spielberg would have been forced to release this production as a television miniseries.

Yet, “BRIDGE OF SPIES” still managed to cover a great deal of the events surrounding the shooting of Powers’ U-2 spy plane and the exchange that followed. This is due to the screenwriters’ decision to start the movie with the arrest of Rudolf Abel in 1957. More importantly, the narrative went into details over the arrest, the U.S. decision to put Abel on trial, their choice of Donovan as his attorney and the trial itself. In fact, the movie covered all of this before Powers was even shot down over the Soviet Union. The screenwriters and Spielberg also went out of their way to cover the circumstances of the arrest and incarceration of American graduate student Frederic Pryor, who was vising his East Berlin girlfriend, when he was arrested. And that is because the writers had the good sense to realize – like Whittell before them – that the incidents surrounding the arrests of both Abel and Pryor were just as important as Powers being shot down by the Soviets.

What I best liked about “BRIDGE OF SPIES” was its ambiguous portrayal of the nations involved in the entire matter – the United States, the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). No country was spared. Both the United States and the Soviet Union seemed bent upon not only projecting some image of a wounded nation to the world. Both engaged in sham trials for Abel and Powers that left a bad taste in my mouth. And the movie portrayed East Germany as some petulant child pouting over the fact that neither of the other two countries were taking it seriously. Which would account for that country’s vindictive treatment toward Pryor. And neither the U.S. or the Soviets seemed that concerned over Pryor’s fate – especially the U.S. Watching the movie finally made me realize how the Cold War now strikes me as irrelevant and a waste of time.

As much as I enjoyed “BRIDGE OF SPIES”, the movie seemed to lack a sense of urgency that struck me as odd for this kind of movie. And I have to blame Spielberg. His direction seemed a bit . . . well, a bit too relaxed for a topic about the Cold War at its most dangerous. Many might point out that “BRIDGE OF SPIES” is basically a historic drama in which anyone familiar with the U-2 incident would know how it ends. Yet Both “MUNICH” and “LINCOLN”, along with Ron Howard’s “APOLLO 13” and Roger Donaldson’s 2000 film, “THIRTEEN DAYS”, seemed to possess that particular sharp urgency, despite being historic dramas. But for“BRIDGE OF SPIES”, Spielberg’s direction seemed just a tad too relaxed – with the exception of a few scenes. One last problem I had with “BRIDGE OF SPIES” was the ending. Remember . . . this is Steven Spielberg, a director notorious for dumping a surprising layer of saccharine on an otherwise complex tale. This saccharine was on full display in the movie’s finale sequence that featured Donovan’s return to the United States . . . especially the scene in which he is riding an El train to his home in the Bronx and his family’s discovery of his activities in Eastern Europe. It was enough saccharine to make me heave an exasperated sigh.

Speaking of Donovan’s El Train ride back to his neighborhood, there was one aspect of it that I found impressive. I must admit how cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, a longtime collaborator of Spielberg’s since the early 1990s, allowed the camera to slowly sweep over Donovan’s Bronx neighborhood from an elevated position. I found the view rather rich and detailed. In fact, Kamiński provided a similar sweeping bird eye’s view of the Berlin Wall and the two “enclaves” that bordered it. Another aspect of the movie’s production values that impressed me were Adam Stockhausen’s production designs. I thought he did an outstanding job in re-creating both New York City and Berlin of the late 1950s and early 1960s. And his work was ably assisted by Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich’s set decorations; along with the art direction team of Marco Bittner Rosser, Scott Dougan, Kim Jennings and Anja Müller.

The performances featured in “BRIDGE OF SPIES” struck me as pretty solid. I thought Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Jesse Plemmons, Michael Gaston, Will Rogers and Austin Stowell did great work. But for my money, the best performances came from lead Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Dakin Matthews and Sebastian Koch. Dakin Matthews has always been a favorite character actor of mine. I have always found his performances rather colorful. However, I would have to say that his portrayal of Federal Judge Byers, who seemed exasperated by Donovan’s attempt to give Abel a fair trial, struck me as a lot more subtle and effective than many of his past roles. Sebastian Koch gave a very interesting performance as East German attorney Wolfgang Vogel, who seemed intensely determined that his country play a major role in the spy swap and not be cast aside. Superficially, Tom Hanks’ role as James Donovan seemed like the typical “boy scout” role he had especially became known for back in the 1990s. And in some ways, it is. But I really enjoyed how the actor conveyed Donovan’s increasing disbelief over his country’s questionable handling of Abel’s trial and his sense that he is a fish-out-of-water in a divided Berlin. However, I feel that the best performance came from Mark Rylance, who gave a deliciously subtle, yet entertaining portrayal of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. What I liked about Rylance’s performance is that he did not portray Abel as some kind of stock KGB agent, but a subtle and intelligent man, who seemed clearly aware of the more unpleasant side of both American and Soviet justice.

I might as well be frank. I do not think I would ever regard “BRIDGE OF SPIES” as one of Steven Spielberg’s best movies. I thought the movie lacked a sense of urgency and sharpness that nearly robbed the film of any suspension . . . despite it being a historical drama. But, I still believe it was a first-rate film. I also thought that Spielberg and the movie’s screenwriters did a great job in conveying as many details as possible regarding the U-2 incident and what led to it. The movie also featured a first-rate cast led by the always incomparable Tom Hanks. Overall, “BRIDGE OF SPIES” proved that Spielberg has yet to lose his touch.

Favorite Moments in MARVEL Movies and Television

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Below is a list of my favorite moments featured in Marvel movies and television: 

FAVORITE MOMENTS IN MARVEL MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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1. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) – After a brutal fight with Doc Ock on top of a Manhattan El Train and saving the train’s passengers, an exhausted Spider-Man aka Peter Parker is unmasked by the latter in what I regard as the most poignant moment in any Marvel production.

 

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2. “The Avengers” (2012) – During its fight against invading Chitauri troops, director Joss Whedon gave audiences an iconic shot of the newly formed Avengers, before they continued the battle.

 

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3. “Iron-Man 3” (2013) – Iron Man aka Tony Stark saves the surviving passengers and crew of Air Force One in this breathtaking sequence, using aerodynamics, one of his Iron Man bots and his brains.

 

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4. “The Wolverine” (2013) – In this exciting sequence, the Wolverine aka Logan battles members of the Yakuza on top of a Tokyo bullet train, as he tries to prevent them from kidnapping the granddaughter of a recently deceased businessman that he had briefly met at the end of World War II.

 

 

5. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” (1.20) “Nothing Personal” – Agent Phil Coulson rescues his kidnapped subordinate Skye aka Daisy Johnson from HYDRA agents, who had hijacked the fallen agency’s C-17 plane, known as “the Bus”, with his sports car called “L.O.L.A.”.

 

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6. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – While staving off rogue HYDRA agents in Washington D.C., Captain America aka Steve Rogers has a brutal hand-to-hand fight with the assassin known as “the Winter Soldier”. Best fight scene in any Marvel production … at least for me.

 

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7. “Iron Man 3” (2013) – In this hilarious scene, Tony Stark finally comes face-to-face with the “terrorist” known as “the Mandarin”, who proves not to be what many had assumed.

 

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8. “The Hulk” (2003) – The opening credits of the 2003 movie featured the chilling efforts of Dr. David Banner to create super soldiers by introducing modified DNA sequences extracted from various animals to strengthen the human cellular response. This sequence gives me the chills whenever I watch the movie.

 

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9. “X2: X-Men United” (2003) – The second movie in the “X-MEN” franchise featured an exciting attack by a brainwashed Nightcrawler aka Kurt Wagner on the White House, in an attempt to assassinate the U.S. President.

 

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10. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) – S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury is attacked by HYDRA agents and the assassin known as “the Winter Soldier” on the streets of Washington D.C.

 

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11. “Iron Man 2” (2010) – S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow fights off security guards at Justin Hammer’s factory in order to prevent Ivan Venko from using James Rhodes in the War Machine suit from killing Tony Stark aka Iron Man.

 

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12. “Ant-Man” (2015) – Scott Laing aka Ant-Man attempts to infiltrate the new Avengers headquarters for a particular device, and has an unexpected encounter with Avenger Sam Wilson aka the Falcon.

 

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13. “Iron Man 3” (2015) – An Extremis enhanced Pepper Potts saves Tony Stark from villain Aldrich Killian by killing the latter.

 

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14. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – The recently enhanced Steve Rogers is recruited by a U.S. senator for a war bonds tour in this colorful montage, after the former is rejected by Colonel Chester Phillips when the super soldier formula is lost.

 

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15. “Thor” (2011) – Recently cast out from Asgaard by his father Odin, a now mortal Thor struggles to free himself from a hospital’s personnel before he is eventually drugged in this very funny scene.

 

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16. “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) – A group of extraterrestrial misfits uses one of the Infinity stones to defeat Kree supervillain Ronan the Accuser, who is bent upon destroying the Nova Empire’s capital city, Xandar.

 

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17. “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) – In this emotionally sad scene, S.S.R. Agent Peggy Carter gives in to tears, when communication with Captain America aka Steve Rogers is cut short, after he forces a HYDRA plane with deadly weapons into the Atlantic Ocean.

 

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18. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) – Another sad scene features Spider-Man aka Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson grieving over the dead body of their friend, Harry Osborn aka New Goblin, after the latter is skewered by villain Venom aka Eddie Brock.

 

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19. “Agent Carter” (1.07) “Snafu” – S.S.R. Chief Roger Dooley jumps to his death in order to save the lives of his subordinates from the bomb device that had been strapped to his body.

 

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20. “The Hulk” (2003) – Ang Lee directed this bizarre scene featuring the death of former military officer Glenn Talbot, after the Hulk aka Bruce Banner escapes from a military base.

 

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Honorable Mention: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) – Director Marc Webb directed this heartbreaking sequence in which Gwen Stacy falls to her death, after Spider-Man aka Peter Parker fails to save her from Harry Osborn aka the Green Goblin.

“POLDARK” (1996) Review

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“POLDARK” (1996) Review

Over seventy years ago marked the publication of author Winston Graham’s first entry in his novel series about a former British Army officer who had served in the American Revolution and his life experiences following his return to home in Cornwall. The BBC aired a successful television series that was based upon Graham’s first seven novels in 1975 and 1977.

Four years after the publication of his seventh novel, Graham concluded his literary series with five more between 1981 and 2002. In 1996, the HTV channel produced a pilot episode, which proved to be an adaptation of Graham’s eighth novel, “The Stranger from the Sea”. HTV had hoped this television movie would prove to be the first of a continuing adaptation of the 1981 novel and the remaining four. Unfortunately, fans protested against the casting of new performers in the lead roles of Ross Poldark and Demelza Carne Poldark. Fifty members of the Poldark Appreciation Society marched in full 18th-century costumes to picket HTV’s headquarters in Bristol, England. When Graham admitted that he preferred the new film to the original television series from the 1970s, he found himself cold-shouldered by the Society of which he was president. Needless to say, the television film, also titled“POLDARK”, proved to be a ratings flop and the network dropped all plans for an adaptation of Graham’s later novels.

I first learned about “POLDARK” and its literary source, “The Stranger from the Sea” from the ELLEN AND JIM HAVE A BLOG, TWO website. Already familiar with the 1970s series, I decided to check out this movie via Netflix. Set between 1810 and 1811 (eleven to twelve years after the 70s series’ conclusion), the plot revolved around the Poldark family’s initial encounter with a young smuggler named Stephen Carrington, while they awaited the return of patriarch Ross Poldark from his Parliamentary duties in London. I realize that this summary seems rather simple, but it was for a good reason. Like all narratives, “POLDARK” featured a good number of subplots. But for the likes of me, I found it difficult to pinpoint a main narrative for this particular plot after watching thirty minutes of the film. I was able to detect various subplots in this production:

*Ross Poldark’s political mission regarding the possible end of the Peninsular War
*Demelza Carne Poldark’s frustration over her husband’s absence from home
*The arrival of smuggler Stephen Carrington in Cornwall, whose presence will have an impact upon others
*Clowance Polark’s romantic involvement both Carrington and Lord Edward Fitzmaurice, whom she met in London
*Jeremy Poldark, Carrington and Ben Carter’s smuggling operation
*Jeremy’s attraction to the well-born Cuby Trevanion
*Widower George Warleggan’s courtship of Lady Harriet
*Clash between the Poldarks and Warleggan over Wheal Leisure (mine)

This is a lot for a 102 minute television movie. If the HTV network really wanted to continue the “POLDARK” series with episodes that are adaptations of Graham’s last five novels, it should NOT have adapted all of “The Stranger from the Sea” in the space of 102 minutes. Another problem I had with the movie’s narrative is that it resumed the “Poldark” saga without any recollections or flashbacks on what previously happened during the 1975-1977 series. I would have dismissed this if the 1996 movie had aired less than a year after the last episode of the original series. But it aired nineteen (19) years after the original series’ last episode. Nineteen years. I think some narrative or recollection of what happened in the 1970s series should have been given before the story could continue.

On the other hand, I feel that the production had more or less found its footing some twenty or thirty minutes into the production. I actually found myself investing in the movie’s subplot – especially those that involved Jeremy and Clowance’s romantic lives. And I thought Richard Laxton did a pretty solid job in maintaining the movie’s pacing and conveying Graham’s story to the screen. The author had seemed satisfied with movie. Mind you, his attitude got him into trouble with his saga’s many fans. But I could see why he enjoyed the movie overall. It really is not that bad. Aside from the first twenty or thirty minutes, I found it easy to follow and rather enjoyable.

Some people blame the casting of John Bowe and Mel Martin as Ross and Demelza Polark for the ratings failure of “POLDARK”. This is probably the truth. Many viewers simply refused to accept the two performers as the leads . . . especially since the producers had originally considered Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees from the 1975-1977 series to reprise their roles. They also seemed displeased with Michael Atwell as George Warleggan, even though Ralph Bates, who had originated the role, had passed away five years before this movie aired on television.

I have to be honest. I did not have a problem with Bowe, Martin and Atwell. Both Bowe and Martin gave solid performances as Ross and Demelza Poldark. But to be honest, the screenplay did not allow their characters to be showcased that much during the first two-thirds of the movie. By the time the pair’s characters were finally reunited for the movie’s last half hour, both Bowe and Martin were allowed to strut their stuff . . . so to speak. This was especially true for Bowe in one scene with Michael Atwell. I certainly had no problems with Atwell’s portrayal of Ross Poldark’s long-time rival, George Warleggan. I found it very intense and complex. Atwell did not portray his character was a one-dimensional villain – especially in scenes that featured Warleggan’s continuing grief over his late wife Elizabth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan, who had died eleven years ago; or his rather odd courtship of the slightly intimidating Lady Harriet.

The production also featured first-rate performances from Nicholas Gleaves as Stephen Carrington, Hans Matheson as Ben Carter, Amanda Ryan as Cuby Trevanion and Gabrielle Lloyd as Jane Gimlet. But aside from Atwell, I felt the other two best performances in the production came from Kelly Reilly, who gave a very complex performance as Ross and Demelza’s daughter Clowance; and Ioan Gruffudd as the couple’s son, Jeremy. It was interesting to see both Reilly and Gruffudd when they were both near the beginning of their careers. Even then, the pair displayed the talent and screen presence that eventually made them well known.

In the end, I realized that I could not share the antagonism toward the 1996 televised movie “POLDARK”. Yes, I had a problem with the vague storytelling in the movie’s first half hour. And this adaptation of Winston Graham’s 1981 novel should have stretched out beyond a 102 minute television movie. But I still enjoyed it in the end, thanks to some exceptional and solid performances from the cast and the energy that seemed to infuse the subplots after that first thirty minutes. I would consider it a worthy addition to my collection of televised adaptations of Graham’s novels.

“West to Laramie” [PG] – 4/4

Part 4 – The conclusion of a series of letters from a Philadelphia matron and her companion during their journey to the Pre-Civil War West.

“WEST TO LARAMIE”

Chapter 4

May 10, 1860

Mrs. Elizabeth Evans
64 Anderson Road
Falmouth, MA

Dear Cousin Elizabeth,

How is your family? You should receive the last letter I had written to you from Fort Kearny within a few weeks. But so much has happened that I decided to write another.

Since leaving the Fort, the trip has become even more miserable. The weather remains hot and windy. A pale-colored dust called alkali continues to blow in our faces. Gnats take every opportunity to bite us. And we still have to contend with the constant verbosity of Mr. Hornbottom. The gambler, Mr. McEvers, once asked him to stop talking. Mr. Hornbottom actually managed to do so for one hour.

We have stopped at least two of these home stations where we ate and rested, while the horses were being changed. We have slept at three of these stations since the beginning of our trip. What wretched hives they have turned out to be! The beds barely seemed stable and are infested with bugs. The meals usually consisted of rancid meat (usually bacon) and fried corn dodgers. However, at least one of these home stations did provide satisfactory service. But I do find myself longing for Fort Kearny or anywhere east of Kansas.

At the first home station west of Fort Kearny, a Mr. William Duff joined our stagecoach. A former trapper and wagon train guide, he plans to head for Virginia City and prospect for silver in the Nevada mines. To our surprise, he turned out to be an old friend of Mr. Wright, the shotgun rider. Mr. Duff spent his first day riding with Mr. Kolp and Mr. Wright on top. The following day, he switched places with Captain Pearson (thank goodness). He turned out to be a lively companion. Unfortunately, he also possesses an offensive body odor. Practically everyone inside the coach had no choice but to cover their noses with handkerchiefs in order to breath.

Two days following our departure from Kearny, we had encountered a ferocious thunderstorm. Mr. McEvers’ mistress went into hysterics and at one point, opened the door and tried to jump out of the coach. Fortunately, Mr. McEvers and Captain Pearson (who had rejoined us inside) managed to settle her back into her seat. It seems the ”lady” has a fear of thunderstorms dating from an incident during childhood. Before the storm finally subsided, the coach had found itself stuck in a quagmire of mud. We were forced to step outside and endure the last twenty minutes of the storm, while the men attempted to pry the coach loose. One of those Pony Express riders, a skinny young fellow with lanky brown hair and buckskins, stopped to offer his help. He and the other men finally managed to pry the coach loose from the mud after the storm subsided.

We reached another home station for a supper break within a few hours. Horrid as usual. The place – or more accurately, hovel – looked as if it could barely remain erect. The landscape looked flat and desolate. The stationmaster, a morose fellow with missing teeth, spent most of his time grunting orders to his two colored workers. His wife, an overweight slattern, prepared overcooked beans, bacon and greasy corn dodgers. Unfortunately for Mrs. Middleton, she found the meal unsettling and had to rush outside before her food could come back up. Later that evening, I had walked around the station for some fresh air in my own attempt to recover from the meal. One of the colored handymen, a tall fellow in his mid-thirties made lewd advances toward me. The other handyman, the only decent person on that station, attempted to intervene on my behalf. Before this gallant man could do so, I came to my own defense and let the lecherous pest know that I was the wrong woman to fool around with. There is nothing, I believe, like a good kick below the belt to teach a person a valuable lesson.

The next day, we passed the first of rock formations on this trail – Courthouse Rock. I swear Elizabeth, it looked as if it had been constructed by man himself. Mr. Hornbottom claimed that it strongly resembled the old courthouse in St. Louis. Our coach has now stopped near another monument called Chimney Rock. This formation bears a strong resemblance to a large, craggy tower twisting toward the sky. The reason I am able to write this letter is that we have come across a band of Indians traveling from the south. At first sight, Mr. McEvers drew out his revolver in order to shoot. But Mr. Duff stopped this act of folly in time. According to the former trapper, the Indians had given a sign of peace.

There are five of them – three men and two women. Two of the men are tall. All are muscular and gaunt-looking. They wear muslin shirts and buckskin trousers or leggings colorfully decorated with beads. The women, who are attractive, wear doeskin dresses decorated with tassels and a wide ornamental belt. According to Mr. Duff, they belong to the Ogalalla Sioux tribe. All five are on horseback and on their way to Fort Laramie. The coach stopped in order to allow Mr. Duff to converse with the newcomers. He informed us that the Indians have asked to accompany the coach to Laramie. Mr. McEvers, his mistress Lucy and Mr. Hornbottom have all objected. Captain Pearson remained silent and both Mr. Kolp and Mr. Wright have given their consent.

In a few minutes, we shall resume our journey. The traveling party now consists of five Ogalalla Sioux Indians and the usual and now nervous passengers. I have no idea how Mrs. Middleton feels about our new companions. Personally, I see no reason for us to be apprehensive. The Sioux seem friendly and there are only five of them. As for the others, it never fails to surprise me how some people can be so easily frightened by the presence of others considered different. Some things never change. Good-bye for now. You shall hear from me, once we reach Fort Laramie.

Your loving cousin,

Patricia North

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May 14, 1860

Mrs. Adalaide Middleton Taylor
231 Green Street
Philadelphia, PA

Dear Addie,

This journey has been the most tedious and uncomfortable I have ever experienced. Except for the last day. I hope that I will never have to endure what I had experienced yesterday. All I can say is thank goodness it will be a while before Patricia and I will resume our journey back East.

Four days ago, a small group of Sioux Indians had joined our coach near an earth formation called Chimney Rock to travel with to Laramie. Personally, I found them to be a barbarous and colorful group. After our journey had resumed, we passed an imposing rock formation called Scott’s Bluff. I have never seen anything like this for it resembled a walled city.

Fifty miles later, we came upon another home station. Thankfully, this station – like a previous one we had encountered nearly a week ago – not only served decent meals, but had a stoic man named Fox and his family as competent stationmasters. If only other home stations along the route could be this satisfactory. Mr. Fox warned us to be on the lookout for a band of outlaws operating in the area. I do not believe that any of us had bothered to pay attention to his warning. We were more apprehensive of our red companions.

Around noon, the following day, the three male Indians went ahead to hunt for game and left their two women behind with us. Mr. McEvers began spouting that the men had left to ”fetch their red brethren in order to massacre the lot of us”. Both Mr. Duff and Mr. Wright scoffed at the idea, pointing out that the Sioux had left behind their women. However, the rest of the passengers and I agree with Mr. McEvers – Patricia being the exception. She regarded the rest of us with scorn, but remained silent. The coach ended up being attacked after all. Thirty minutes after the Sioux men left, the very outlaws that Mr. Fox had warned us about, swooped upon the stagecoach from an isolated patch of woods, situated below a low ridge. Within minutes, they had rifles trained on us.

They were nine outlaws. Their leader, a shifty-eyed short man on a bay roan ordered two of his men to grab the Sioux women – “for some fun later”, he had remarked. His words made my blood chill thinking of the fate of those poor women. The leader then ordered our men to throw down their weapons. As Mr. Hornbottom started to comply, three shots rang out, killing three of the bandits. The outlaws became confused as more shots followed. Another bandit fell dead. Ahead, the three Sioux men galloped toward us, releasing horrendous war cries. The bandits attempted to escape the red men’s attack, but our men took the opportunity to join in the fray. Both Captain Pearson and Mr. Duff managed to climb out of the coach, while bullets flew in all directions. We women did our best to remain out of the line of fire by crouching in our seats. Rather difficult to accomplish in full skirts One bandit aimed his rifle at Patricia, when Captain Pearson blocked his line of fire and received a bullet in the temple. Both Patricia and myself found ourselves in a state of shock when we realized that the Army officer had given his life to save hers.

Less than eight minutes later, the gun battle finally ceased. One of the bandits managed to escape. Two other bandits fell dead – including the leader. Another two became our prisoners. One prisoner turned out to be the very fellow who had killed Captain Pearson. He was seriously injured. One of the Sioux women had been injured in the shoulder. Mr. Wright and Mr. Duff slung Captain Pearson’s body over a horse and tied the latter behind the coach. We resumed our journey until we came upon another home station. There, Captain Pearson’s killer died. And the good captain’s body was buried.

Patricia and I are still in shock over Captain Pearson’s sacrifice. Perhaps both of us should have realized that he had been the type who would defend anyone he felt it was his duty to do so – despite any bigotry on his part. This reminded me of those brave Sioux Indians who had come to our rescue. How ironic! We had been so concerned with their presence that we did not take heed of Mr. Fox’s warning about the outlaws. And the Sioux turned out to be our rescuers.

It took us eighteen hours upon leaving the last home station to reach Fort Laramie. Both Robert and Penelope were at the stage depot to greet us. The wounded Indian woman went to the infirmary and Mr. Kolp informed the fort’s commander about Captain Pearson’s death and the location of his body. The remaining outlaw was arrested by troopers and sent to the jailhouse. I can only assume that he will swing from a rope within a few days for his part in the attempted robbery and the captain’s death. Some officer offered the Army’s appreciation to the Sioux for their rescue. Yet, he seemed to be rather cool about it – as if he did not want to forget that he considered them his enemies. I also detected this attitude amongst the other military personnel – including Robert, I am sorry to say. Patricia, myself and the other passengers were more appreciative toward our rescuers. They had saved our hides, after all.

Three new passengers boarded the stagecoach, while Patricia, Mr. Hornbottom and I said our good-byes to the remaining travelers. As the coach resumed its journey west, Patricia turned around and remarked that it seemed a shame there was no chance of a railroad being built in time for our trip back east. Both Robert and Penelope merely treated her remark as a joke. I believe Patricia was being serious. I certainly felt the same.

Dearest Addie! The West is such a complex place. Yes, it has its physical beauties. But it so different and stark . . . so incredibly harsh in compare to the East. It is beyond my understanding. Why on earth would anyone want to settle here? There is still good farmland back East. My love to you and Harold and I hope to see you again by early September.

I love you always,

Mother

THE END

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