Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "MR. ARKADIN" (1955)

Hey, remember that Orson Welles movie about the mysterious, manipulative, all-powerful yet ultimately self-destructive tycoon? The one told in flashback? With the deep-focus black & white cinematography, striking close-ups, and memorable character actors in supporting roles?

It can be only one movie: Mr. Arkadin. Right?

Written and directed by Welles during his lengthy European sojourn in the 1950s, Mr. Arkadin is the probably the most obscure movie the great man ever made; it certainly appears to be the most low-budget. Alternately sloppy, brilliant, inexplicable, and hypnotic, Mr. Arkadin tells the story of the titular character -- played by Welles -- who claims not to remember his life before one winter's evening in 1927, when he suddenly found $200,000 in Swiss francs stuffed in his wallet, from which he started his financial empire. 

Arkadin hires Guy van Stratten, a low-rent criminal with underworld connections, to find out who he (Arkadin) really is and how he got that all that money. As Guy travels around the world digging up information, he finds Arkadin's past becoming even more puzzling. Especially when Arkadin himself starts tailing Guy -- and as the people Arkadin knew back in the day start winding up dead.

For all Mr. Arkadin promises -- and delivers -- its weakest link is front and center. As Guy van Stratten, Robert Arden gives the worst performance since the introduction of sound. Just what Welles, usually impeccable when it came to casting, saw in him is a mystery greater than the movie itself. I mean, Arden doesn't even move convincingly. It comes close, in fact, to becoming a parody of bad acting.

To be fair, however, Welles' script does Arden no favors. Guy's "hard-boiled" dialogue is closer to weakly-poached  -- again, nearly a film noir parody. Too, Welles appeared to have re-written some of Aden's lines after he completed filming, so that his own dubbed dialogue often doesn't match what he was originally saying. 

Then there's Welles' flamboyant performance. Not only does he speak with an accent difficult to identify -- which was perhaps the point -- his theatrical make-up is never quite believable. Thanks to his many close-ups, the phony nose, rouged-up cheeks, stiff beard, and hairnet under the wig are evident. Had he been onstage, it would be no problem. But three inches from a movie camera, he often appears to be what he really was: a 40 year-old playing a much older man.

And as long as we're talking about distractions, what do we make of Paola Mori as Arkadin's daughter Raina? Arkadin's obsession with her becomes that much more interesting when you learn that Mori was Welles' real-life wife. As for her acting skills, well, she's right up there with co-star Robert Arden.


Don't get me wrong.  Mr. Arkadin is never less than fascinating. For Welles understood the very look of cinema better than any director of his time. Not even the great Alfred Hitchcock was so visually consistent and fascinating. The scene with Arkadin and Guy's drunk girlfriend Mily in a rolling yacht; the grotesque close-ups; Arkadin's bizarre costume party. And, of course, there's the story itself, which pulls you in the same way Arkadin pulls in everyone around him.


Once the the boy genius of movies, Welles was, by the time of the Arkadin shoot, an outcast, thanks to his working style. Just give me your money, appeared to have been his typical pitch. In return, I'll go over-budget and over the scheduled shooting time. Then I'll disappear in the editing room for months on end -- and get distracted with another project -- until you get fed up and release it before I'm ready, which will probably be never, anyway. Look up the phrase "own worst enemy" and you'll see a picture of Orson Welles.

And so Mr. Arkadin's producer removed some scenes while re-arranging others, releasing it in Europe as Confidential Report, where it was immediately hailed as Orson Welles' best movie yet. A few years later, French cineastes named it one of the 12 greatest movies of all time. Now, you're likely to get a "Qu'est est ce Confidential Report?" from their grandchildren.


Under its original title, Mr. Arkadin saw its New York debut in 1962 before quickly disappearing. The American edit, told in flashback, is closer to what Welles had envisioned. But what was it really supposed to look like? Who knows? All I can tell you is that Mr. Arkadin, like The Lady from Shanghai, is an alleged "lesser" Welles production that despite its faults -- like the quite audible whirring of the camera on at least one occasion -- is worth repeated viewings.


No doubt Welles identified with the grand, larger-than-life puppet-master Arkadin. Most of his close-ups are shot from below, allowing him to loom over us like God. Outtakes reveal Welles giving precise line-readings to his actors, going so far as explaining how to hold their mouths after finishing their dialogue. You want to talk about a control freak? Welles dubbed in his own voice for at least 18 actors in the movie. Orson, lay off the caffeine for five minutes!


Welles' outlandish make-up itself might be a deliberate ruse. As written, Arkadin has done everything in his power to remain hidden from the world, even refusing to remove his mask at his own costume party or allowing himself to be photographed. After my second viewing, it hit me: Welles is supposed to be playing Arkadin in obvious disguise!... Or is he? Again I ask, who knows?

No surprise that his final movie, F for Fake, was a playful documentary about the art of fooling the public for fun and profit. Unlike Arkadin, however, Orson Welles had too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter. 

PS: The name is pronounced Ar-KAY-din, not ARK-a-din. I made the same mistake, too

                                           *********************

Monday, October 20, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: EXECUTION EDITION

Responding to a Reuters report stating that the number of government-sponsored beheadings in Saudi Arabia has dramatically increased recently, real estate developer Donald Trump took to his Facebook page in anger:

Once again, our president has allowed another country to surpass America. While we have put 30 prisoners to death since the beginning of the year, Saudi Arabia has executed at least 57. And 26 of them were in August alone! That a president allows any country to take the lead in any field is a travesty. But to lose to an Arab country is a disgrace.

As has been proven over and over again, the private sector is much better than the government at getting the job done. Therefore, I'm offering to execute all 3,070 inmates currently on death row in America before the end of the year via the new Trump Hot Seat Electric Chair®.  I will provide a chair to each of the 32 states currently with the death penalty, along with a Trump associate who has been trained in its use. By executing roughly 42 people a day, we'll be able to "clear the decks" before January 2015.

As you know, I don't put my name on just any product. With its black marble legs and brass seat, the Trump Hot Seat Electric Chair® is the greatest form of criminal death you will ever see. Anyone interested in viewing one in person can visit the lobby of the Trump Tower on Madison Avenue in New York where we have one on display. I promise you that once you see the Trump Hot Seat Electric Chair® for yourself, you will agree that punishment doesn't get any better than this!

                                                       ********************

Friday, October 17, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: EBOLA EDITION

As fears over an Ebola outbreak continue to grow, the White House is under increasing pressure to prevent flights containing passengers from affected African countries from entering the United States.

President Barack Obama, however, is resisting such a move. White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained to reporters, "How else are we going to know who's infected unless they come here? Africa's a big place, you know."

Meanwhile, Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) has issued a statement regarding Nina Pham, the first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola after treating an infected Liberian man at a Dallas hospital. "The fact that Nurse Pham was taken for treatment in Bethesda, Maryland shows yet another failure of Obamacare. She works at a hospital in Dallas already, and yet was flown over 1,300 miles for treatment. Who's picking up the tab for this unnecessary travel? The American taxpayers, that's who. When Congress returns to work next month, I'm going to demand an investigation to see if Nurse Pham took out a student loan without having any way to repay it if she were to die from this infection -- and once again, leaving the American taxpayers on the hook."

In a related matter, the Walt Disney Company is suing Sudan and the Republic of Congo -- the original sources of the disease in 1976 -- for copyright infringement, claiming that the top part of the Ebola virus is "an unauthorized facsimile of Mickey Mouse." Disney is also seeking damages for "defaming the reputation of our theme parks' beloved official greeter. Mickey Mouse is expected to bring joy and laughter, not black vomit and projectile diarrhea."

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: CHEMICAL WEAPONS EDITION

The New York Times is reporting that American soldiers stationed in Iraq were unknowingly exposed to chemical weapons from 2004 to 2011. These weapons, which the Pentagon kept secret from the troops, were manufactured in part by the United States.

A spokesman for President Obama, noting that the weapons were from a previous administration, referred The Ol' Fish-Eye to a spokesman for former President George W. Bush, who in turn referred us to a spokesman for former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell. 

That spokesman, noting the manufacture of the agents began before the Bush administration, referred us to a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton, who, in turn, referred us to a spokesman for former Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

That spokesman, noting the manufacture of the agents began before the Clinton administration, referred us to a spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush, who, in turn, referred us to a spokesman for former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.

That spokesman, noting that the casualties happened in later administrations, referred us to spokesmen for former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, who referred us to the spokesman for the wounded soldiers.

The soldiers, however, have no spokesman.

                                               *********************** 

Monday, October 13, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: LOCKHEED & NORTHROP EDITION

Bloomberg News is reporting that the biggest U.S. defense companies, including Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world.

While this news added to the belief that war profiteers are capitalizing on death, White House assistant spokesman Brad Lanes had a different point of view. "This is a perfect time to invest in the stock market, specifically in these particular companies. While much of the business community has seen volatility, defense contractors are a safe place to put your money. As President Obama and Senator [John] McCain have reminded us, the war on ISIL is expected to take years before we can declare victory. Some military experts have even predicted a 30-year war. That's 30 years of solid profit margins."

Pointing to investment graphs showing positive movement for Lockheed and Northrop, Lanes continued, "Look at this. I'd like to see Apple or Google equal these two. And as far as employment is concerned, the defense industry is the go-to place for qualified college graduates. Because once ISIL is defeated, the Pentagon guarantees another terrorist organization will take its place."

Lanes chuckled, "Hey, whoever heard of the Khorasian group until two weeks ago? I mean, I thought it was some philanthropic organization. You know, 'The McLaughlin Group is made possible by a grant from the Khorasian group.' So as long as there's a Middle East, job-seekers have nothing to worry about."

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Friday, October 10, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: JAY LENO EDITION

The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive story this week on Jay Leno's possible return to television on CNBC. The series would center on his well-known love of cars. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Leno has been loyal to NBC (his car-themed web series Jay's Garage is still hosted on NBC.com), and he has a relationship with CNBC president Mark Hoffman."

Network spokesman Brad Lanes told The Ol' Fish-Eye, "We're delighted that Jay is continuing his psychologically-abusive relationship with the NBC family. Like a battered spouse with low self-esteem, Jay keeps coming back no matter how times we screw him over. Give him the Tonight Show, only to openly consider replacing him with Letterman months later; throw him off when he's number one; put him on a lousy hybrid talk-variety-what-the-hell-is-this-shit show; give him back Tonight; cut the show's budget by half, then get rid of him again when he's still number one. Doesn't matter. We know he'll be there saying, 'I'm sorry, honey, I promise to do better next time.'"

Throwing darts at a dartboard featuring the face of Leno, Lanes added, "As you know, Jay was in talks with CNN, A&E, the History Channel, and several other networks and production companies. But not only did he come crawling back to the people who have zero respect for him, he's going to be on CNBC, the lowest-rated cable channel in the Western world. And in primetime, where he bombed four years ago! Man, does this do our hearts good."


"And when the inevitable ratings slide begins," Lanes said, juggling rolls of Jay Leno toilet paper, "that's when we'll dream up another inappropriate series for him. I'm thinking of something along the lines of his current web show, Jay's Garage. Only this is going to be called Jay's Garbage. We'll follow Jay as he empties the kitchen trash, then takes it to the dump in his 1922-model Shelvoke & Drewry garbage truck. There'll be a guest in the passenger seat, who Jay will interview during the ride."

When asked if this was too similar to Jerry Seinfeld's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Lanes bristled. "Not at all. Because unlike Jerry, Jay's going to allow the guest to take the wheel for a few minutes. That's comedy, NBC-style!"

As the interview came to a close, Lanes remarked, "You know, they tell me there was a time when Jay was the funniest stand-up around -- edgy, if you can believe it. And that when he plays live gigs, he's still hilarious. But we at NBC like our jokes tepid and edges rubbed smooth. As long as Jay is ambulatory, he'll have a home at NBC: Nothing But Contempt."

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

THE AGING DATING GAME


My wife spends the occasional weekend at a retreat in the Berkshires. After one visit, she said, "If I die first, you should go there. There are so many single women you could meet!"

Understandably, I asked, "How old are they?"

"Most of them are our age."

Understandably, I replied, "But I wouldn't want someone our age!" 

A slippery slope.
What younger woman wouldn't want to get involved with a man who was around when the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Oliver Hardy, and Ethel Barrymore still walked the earth? Especially if she even heard of them?

I'm kidding (kind of), but many older men aren't. According to a recent poll conducted by the dating site OK Cupid, 50 year-old single men prefer 22 year-old women. And although single men older than 50 weren’t part of this survey, I have a feeling many of them would be equally as delusional.



What was he thinking?
Women have a right to be unhappy about this state of affairs, but they have to take certain things into consideration. First, many older men suffer from ocular conditions that make their mirror reflections appear decades younger than they really are. Interestingly, the chances of this happening increases in proportion to their net worth. Exception to the rule: Taylor Hackford, who married Helen Mirren (in 1997) when they were both 52, and who are still together. Crazy show business people!

Man, is she old!
Second, if men are still single by age 50, it’s probably because they’re not marriage material to begin with. Exception to the rule: George Clooney. And just to show what a mensch he is, Clooney (age 53) married a woman only 17 years his junior.


Third, scientists say that men are hardwired to seek out the most fertile partners for the survival of the species. Although, frankly, I think they say that to justify the first two excuses.

I’m not sure what men in their 50s have in common with women three decades their junior, although emotional immaturity appears to come into play. I hear these girls talking on the street and in the subway, and few of them appear conversant in anything other than the latest pop sensation (usually with the moniker DJ or MC), or reality show celebrity. 

Too, they speak almost exclusively in a kind of verbal Morse code, thanks to the limits of Twitter, texting, and education. And don't get me going on the excessive use of "like" and "y'know," and that uptick at the end of every sentence which makes every declarative statement sound like a question?



MC Bobby D
While similar values were important during my dating days, a shallow guy like me gravitated toward pop culture touchstones. If I were still single, it would be paramount that a prospective date remembered a time when grade school came to a dead-stop to watch a rocket launch on a little black-and-white TV, a new Volkswagen Beetle cost $3,000, and Bob Dylan was regularly heard on Top 40 radio. The rest would take care of itself.



Men who troll for excessively-younger women will undoubtedly enjoy a quick thrill before their sugar babies eventually desire someone their own age. As for me, there’s something quite satisfying about spending a rainy Sunday afternoon on the couch with my wife, as we silently read and enjoy each other’s company. After 22 years of marriage, that’s pretty damn thrilling in itself.

And for the record, OK Cupid found that 50 year-old single women go for men no older than 46. Unfortunately, if you look at the graph atop the page, you'll see guys that age only have eyes for 20 year-old girls. 

Middle-aged women can take heart in one incontrovertible fact: there are more 
100 year-old men alive today than ever before. Start filling up those hot-water bottles, ladies!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "THE PRESIDENT'S MYSTERY" (1936)

James Blake has a bad case of the guilts, thanks to being a mouthpiece for George Sartos, the ruthless owner of National Cannery. After lobbying Congress to kill a proposal that would help small businesses at the expense of National Cannery's profits, Blake decides to cash in his $5,000,000 investments and fake his death. 

Leaving behind his faithless wife, Ilka, he moves to Springvale, a town negatively impacted by his lobbying, to revive the local co-op cannery. Ilka, meanwhile, is killed by Sartos' chauffeur, Roger. Just as Blake's succeeding in rebuilding Springvale, Sartos tracks him down. When Blake refuses Sartos' blackmail, he's arrested for Ilka's murder. The kindly sheriff lets Blake out of jail in order to prevent a mob -- paid by Sartos -- from destroying the cannery. Roger confesses to Ilka's death, and Sartos himself is arrested for inciting a riot.

I know what you're thinking. Where's the president? And where's the mystery? In the title, that's where. As the on-screen prologue explains:

How the hell do I know? You're the President.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, talking with a magazine editor on one of his favorite subjects - mystery stories - advanced the question: "How can a man disappear with five million dollars of his own money in negotiable form and not be traced?" Challenged by this, the editor enlisted the aid of six famous authors. The result was a thrilling story. The same problem intrigued the producers of this photoplay, and in another form is now brought to the screen. The proceeds of the sale of the plot, both for publication and motion picture rights, have been given voluntarily by the publisher to the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.  

Someone should tell Liberty that there's a
difference between "Plot By" and
"Shooting the Breeze with a Friend Over Drinks."
Well, that was a very generous donation. I only wish the screenwriters had been half as generous as donating a real mystery. In fact, the only mystery is why it's called a mystery. 

I've never read the original novel, but I would hope it's more "thrilling" than the movie. Hero James Blake isn't even smart enough to come up with the ol' fake-death-and-disappear routine on his own. He gets the idea from the latest copy of Liberty magazine where -- well, whaddaya know! -- The President's Mystery is prominently featured. Meta movie, 1936-style.
"Hey, I use a cigarette-holder like FDR.
I must be a good guy!"

If The President's Mystery is interesting at all today, it's because how ruthless and almost nihilistic businessman George Sartos is. An SOB whose corporate philosophy makes the Walton Family look like the Little Sisters of Mercy, he literally doesn't care about the effect his business practices have on anybody, as long as National Cannery's profits keep going north. 

James Blake's lobbying is shown in a montage that features everything you hate about Washington: boozing, schmoozing, golfing -- let's call it what it is, legal bribery -- interspersed with a series of screaming newspaper headlines: SMALL INDUSTRIES DOOMED! FEDERAL LOANS OUT! Hey, capitalist pigs gotta eat. 


C'mon, cheer up. Think of how happy
the corporate shareholders are!
And movie audiences gotta get romantic subplots, like the one James Blake has with Springvale Cannery owner Charlotte Brown. After meeting cute in a trout stream, Blake follows Charlotte back to the Springvale town meeting, where he discovers just how destructive his lobbying has been. This gives its citizens a chance to drive home how unchecked capitalism, crooked politicians and Godzilla-sized businesses can ruin entire towns. How nice that America has learned its lesson since then. Oh wait. (James and Charlotte are played by British-born Henry Wilcoxin -- a favorite of Cecil B. DeMille -- and Betty Furness, whose appearance is trumpeted on the credits as "Courtesy MGM". It must have been something of a drag for both to get loaned out to Poverty Row's Republic Pictures for a low-budget B-movie like this.)

Some of the movie's political theatre might be courtesy co-screenwriter Nathaniel West. Yes, the author of Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust was better known -- make that better paid -- as a screenwriter, first at Republic Pictures, then later at RKO Radio. West might have painted a grim picture of Hollywood in Locust, but when you make a grand total of $1,280 from your novels (according to West bios), well, the movie factory looks pretty good. Great writers, like the aforementioned capitalist pigs, gotta eat, too.

Note FDR's quote on the upper left --
not exactly a ringing endorsement of
his own idea.
Over the years, The President's Mystery was one of those obscure movies I'd always wanted to see, just for its bizarre origins. A story written by six authors, each taking a different chapter, from an idea suggested by the sitting president. The film version co-written by a man almost unknown in his own day, but would later be renown as the author of two of the more trenchant novels about the underbelly of American popular culture. President Roosevelt himself gets a "Story Conceived By" screen credit.

And the result? A not-bad 52-minute movie which, had its origins been more humble, would have become even more forgotten than it already it is. It's remarkable, in its own way, that The President's Mystery successfully tackles so many different topics -- capitalism, quasi-socialism, murder, economics -- in less than an hour. In that respect, it would make a great double-bill with the still-relevant Washington Merry-Go-Round. And it still leaves time for a wedding engagement at the climax. 

Don't think I spoiled the ending -- that was no mystery, either.

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 To read about Washington-Merry-Go-Round, go here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: JOE BIDEN EDITION

Gaffe-prone Vice-President Joe Biden is coming under fire once more for a series of recent verbal missteps. Recently, he had to apologize to the Ant-Defamation League for calling unscrupulous money-lenders "shylocks." The same week, he referred to Asia as "the Orient."

Biden brushed off concerns that these and other misfires were going to hurt his chance at winning his party's presidential nomination in 2016. "That rumor must have been started by some stupid Polack. There's not a Chinaman's chance I'm in trouble. That boy in the Oval Office has put his full faith in me. The idea that people are taking offense is like saying an Irishman goes home sober every night. I mean, you've gotta be some kind of dumb blonde to believe it."

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Friday, October 3, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: WHITE HOUSE SECURITY BREACH EDITION

Two days after Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned, another White House security breach was reported. The intruder broke through the front door and, screaming unintelligibly, ran straight into the Oval Office. Fortunately, an agent was able to wrestle Mrs. Clinton to the ground.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MOVIE OF THE DAY: "DR. KILDARE'S STRANGE CASE" (1940)

If you find yourself in need of medical attention the next time you're in New York, you can't do any better than Blair General Hospital. That is, if you like soap opera shenanigans, gossipy switchboard operators, violent ambulance drivers, smokers outside the operating rooms, and ethically-dubious procedures.


Dr. Kildare's Strange Case, starring B-movie leading man Lew Ayres, was the fourth entry in M-G-M's popular series about the dreamy diagnostician learning his craft at the side of the crotchety cripple, Dr. Gillespie (the crotchety cripple Lionel Barrymore). By now, enthralled audiences were getting to know these people better than their own families. Kildare's growing love for nurse Mary LaMonte; Gillespie's life-threatening melanoma; Kildare's parents dispensing wisdom the way pharmacists do Valium; and all the other supporting characters who seem to be paid to stand around and yak all day instead of doing their jobs. If all hospitals were this much fun, I'd go to med school right now.


Joe Wayman looks forward to physically
abusing Sally after work.
But not all is well at the House of Blair. Molly Byrd, the Superintendent of Nurses, is giving Gillespie a hard time. ("If I don't drink one glass of milk a day," he grouses to Kildare, "she hides my cigarettes.") Ambulance driver Joe Wayman is known to smash the skulls of alleged miscreants with an industrial-sized monkeywrench. And Dr. Gregory Lane, a supposedly brilliant brain surgeon, has been on something of a cold streak lately, his nickname around the hospital being "The undertaker's best friend." (Wouldn't you like to work in a warm, supporting atmosphere like that?) Lane himself bitterly comments after his latest botched surgery, "The operation was a success, but the patient died!" Good to keep a sense of humor at times like this. 

Lane redeems himself by saving the life of an unidentified hit-and-run victim. Unfortunately, the surgery appears to have left the guy a babbling idiot, yelling "Friday!" incessantly. Kildare decides to save Lane's career by proving that the patient was a babbling idiot before the surgery as well.


You'd be pissed-off like Nurse LaMonte
if you were stuck between a chain-smoking,
wheelchair-bound grouch and the dreamboat
who won't give you a tumble.
It wouldn't be a Kildare movie without enough subplots to fill a cemetery, and this Strange Case is no exception. Gillespie diagnoses a woman's rash as a reaction from the lacquer on her mah-jonng tiles. Joe the ambulance driver gets Sally the switchboard operator drunk at the local hash-house.

And this being only the fourth movie in the series, Kildare, still an intern, hasn't made a major move on Mary LaMonte yet, thanks to his meager $20-a-month salary. (And you wonder why your medical bills are so expensive!) Yet, he turns down a chance to work at the prestigious Messinger Institute at $6,000 per annum, just so he can continue stick around with Gillespie, and to watch Dr. Lane date the horny Nurse LaMonte. Audiences in 1940 were supposed to approve Kildare's decision, but looking at things from a 21st-century perspective, all we can think now is, What a 24-karat sap!

But whence the strange case we've been promised? Well, remember the hit-and-run patient? Kildare has a theory that the guy is suffering from schizophrenia -- or, as he pronounces it, "SKEEZ-o-frenn-ya," like the punchline of a joke about a crazy Irishman. Going behind Gillespie's back, Kildare consults with his own father, a small-town doctor, about the possibility of curing the patient via insulin shock therapy. Kildare père has seen the effects of the procedure first-hand: "One of the most terrifying things I've ever seen in my life!" Insulin shock therapy, he explains in an off-handed way typical for the Kildare pictures, "causes patients to go backwards through evolution -- ape, bird, lizard, and so forth." What. The. Fuck.


Even for a Kildare movie, this is some weird medical shit. So of course Kildare fils is eager to jump into it. Moving the patient to a private room without permission, Kildare convinces Mary LaMonte to help him perform a procedure better suited to Island of Lost Souls. Mary, being the only sane person at the hospital, demands an explanation. "Buried deep in the brain," Kildare says gravely, "is the brain of our human ancestors." Also the brain of anyone who thinks this is a good idea. 
"Man, I love torturing people for my own
professional edification!"

What follows the insulin overdose is the strangest sequence in the entire Kildare series. Filmed partly in silhouette, the patient indeed goes back in time to his Alley Oop origins and beyond, twisting, shuddering and squirming in agony, his eyes popping out as if being pushed from the inside, like something out of a Universal horror movie. 

There's no accompanying music, just Kildare doing a quiet play-by-play for the terrified LaMonte. "The hands are beginning their first primitive movements... The body is trying desperately to obey the impossible demands of the brain..." That sounds like me every morning. Audiences probably thought this bizarre scheme was S.O.P. in hospitals at the time -- they trusted doctors to pull off stunts that would get their licenses revoked today. But guess what. It works!


Kildare performs an emergency
appendectomy on Gillespie while
Nurse LaMonte applies

 anesthesia

To recap: This is a hospital where the chief diagnostician is a heavy smoker; the ambulance driver is a sociopath; the chief brain surgeon keeps his job despite killing patients; and an intern seriously ignores protocol and performs a procedure out of Dr. Mengele's notebook.  

And people loved it! So much so that five more Kildare movies with Lew Ayres followed, before Lionel Barrymore's Gillespie continued on his own for another five. In 1949, they re-teamed for a radio series, The Story of Dr. Kildare. I shudder to think of the misguided men and women who were inspired to enter medical school by these quacks.

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Two Dr. Gillespie movies are discussed here and here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: OKLAHOMA EDITION

Brad Lanes, the White House assistant Press Secretary, met with reporters in order to explain why the recent beheading of a woman in Oklahoma wasn't being classified as an act of terrorism, even though the suspect, Alton Alexander Nolen, aka Jah’Keem Yisrael, covered his Facebook page with pro-terrorist, anti-American photos and text.

"As you know, this terrible incident happened at a food distribution center," Lanes explained. "Therefore, we consider this an event of violence in the workplace. However, considering the shocking details, we would move this up a notch and make it an official 'extreme violence in the workplace event with yucky aftereffects.'"

Asked what the difference was between this beheading and those performed by the members of the Islamic State, Lanes replied, "This recent crime happened in Oklahoma during an otherwise normal working day. Plus, there was no video made of the incident, and, therefore, didn't terrorize people in the legal sense of the word."

"Those ISIL guys," he continued, "are a different matter. First of all, the executioner always speaks directly to President Obama in those videos, so that right there is a terrorist tip-off. Mr. Nolen said nothing about him during the beheading. And look how that ISIL guy dresses dress -- all in black, head to toe, in the middle of the desert. That's some scary stuff. Mr. Nolen, as far as I know, was in standard jeans and workshirt. Nothing terrorizing about that. And the executioner's muffled voice under the mask gives me the chills just thinking about it. I'm not sure Mr. Nolen said anything at the time of his actions."

"So, let's reiterate," Lanes said, counting on his fingers. "No video, no desert, no mention of the president, no scary clothes or voice. Ergo, no terrorism." Asked if the suspect's religious fanaticism played any role, Lanes shook his head. "Islamophobia has no place in 21st-century American society, and I would ask you to apologize for that question."

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: SYRIA EDITION

President Barack Obama made a public statement following the second wave of attacks against Islamic State forces in Syria.

Speaking from New York, where the President is delivering a speech to the United Nations General Assembly later today, Mr. Obama said, "I would like to thank the brave men and women of the United States armed forces for their part in helping destroy ISIL strongholds. But tribute must be made to Congress as well. In refusing to even debate the idea of attacking a country that we aren't at war with, just so they don't have to take a stand until after the midterm elections, our elected officials have once again shown what they're made of. Oh, and I'd also like to give a shout-out to the aid given by our Arab allies." 

Mr. Obama then chuckled, and added, "I'm sorry. That phrase -- 'Arab allies' -- always  makes me laugh."

Moments later, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave a joint statement via speakerphone from an undisclosed location. "I think I can speak for my friend John when I say that, when push comes to shove, we in Congress are happy to behave as cravenly as possible," Mr. Reid said. "As you know, many of us are running scared right now, and are doing whatever we can to cover our asses in order to get re-elected. And that means not taking a principled stand on something as important as dropping bombs and missiles on a country that we couldn't even spell if you spotted us the vowels."

Mr. Boehner then spoke up. "My friend Harry said it all. And I'd like to reassure the country that we Republicans, who could have gone on the record one way or another before the attack on Syria, will be happy to do so immediately after Election Day. We will condemn the President as 'misguided' and committing 'a blatant power-grab' if the mission goes kablooey. And we will very grudgingly give him credit if it seems to be going well, while still demanding to be kept in the loop we willingly stepped out of. The business of the American people continues!"

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

OF CREAMS AND WILLS

As if the recent mole removal activity wasn't enough proof that I'm on the express train to Geriatricville, a couple more incidents have further punched my ticket.

Uh, let me see... maybe you're OLD?!
Over the weekend, the missus and I biked to Costco for the few supplies that don't come in packages the size of revolving doors. Aside from the usual imperatives -- a box of 18 Kind Bars and a five-pound sack of walnuts -- we had a coupon for three StriVectin products.  

StriVectin, for those not in the know, manufactures anti-aging creams. Not that this stuff actually stops  aging -- it only pretends to. You can bet that a manly man like George Clooney buys StriVectin -- or, more likely, something a lot more expensive, like fresh placenta -- by the carload. While my wife studied the product before finally making the plunge, I played it non-committal. No husband wants to appear too enthusiastic when his wife considers buying this kind of stuff.


In truth, I wanted it myself. But I didn't let my wife on to that. No sir. Instead, I let her make the first move that evening when she suggested I use the Tightening Eye Serum and Tightening Neck Cream. For something that's supposed to make you look young, StriVectin's products certainly sound life-threatening.

Me, first thing in the
morning.
I was most interested in the neck cream, having watched my neck gradually succumbing to gravity for two decades. To see if it was really working, my wife ordered me to smear it on only the left side, just to compare it to the right in a few weeks time. 

Interesting idea. But if it does work, and I start using it on both sides, my neck would always look lopsided. Unless, of course, I stop using it on the left side for a while in order to give the right side time to catch up. It's exhausting trying to maintain a semblance of youth.

The other sign that my time is nearly up is the increase of junk mail from schools, museums and other allegedly non-profit institutions suggesting I write them into my will.

You see a cemetery. The Met sees a
cash register.
What the hell?  Since when was reserving a space in somebody's will considered good manners? And what good is the Metropolitan Museum of Art going to do me when I'm not around anymore? Besides, the Met's already swindling gullible tourists by "asking" them to pay the "suggested" entrance fee of 20 bucks. And, yes, your average family will slap down four or five jacksons for the privilege, only to realize after an hour that they should have visited the Hershey Candy store in Times Square. 

My own alma mater has gotten in on the fun, too, in addition to hitting me up for an annual contribution. During my working years, I thought I was being generous by giving them $50, until they asked me to "slightly increase" it to $3,500. Someone must have redefined "slightly" since I was a lad.

Last year, I informed them I no longer had a steady income, and requested they stop calling. The friendly person on the other end agreed, and a week later sent me a letter asking for my dough instead. 

They must have lost my request since then, because they called last Sunday evening, forcing me to put them on my phone's "blocked" list heretofore reserved for scams involving computer repair, credit cards, and phony veteran charities. They'll keep sending me the requests for annual contributions anyway, along with those for a death gift, further cluttering my recycling bin. Now, if they develop a better anti-aging cream than StriVectin, we'll talk.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: WHITE HOUSE SECURITY EDITION

The Secret Service came under fire over the weekend for two unrelated incidents involving unauthorized men who got past the White House security perimeter. One of them, an Iraq war veteran, actually made it into the White House  through the front door before being stopped by agency personnel.

When asked why the White House front door was unlocked, Secret Service spokesman Brad Lanes said, "President Obama's popularity is at an all-time low. So we thought, hey, wouldn't it be nice if we made it easier for the people who still like him to swing by and, y'know, give him a thumbs-up and a 'we're sticking with you' kind of thing? Locking the door seemed to send a bad message, like we were trying to keep them out." Asked what security measures they were implementing going forward, Lanes replied, "We're having someone from Home Depot install a doorbell. If that doesn't work, we're going to get one of those doormats that say 'GO AWAY.' We hate to take those measures, but the President's safety is imperative, except when it's not."


The Secret Service's former open-door policy at the White House wasn't the only reflection on the President's negative polling numbers. The Washington Post is reporting that Democrats are inching away from the increasingly-unpopular Obama, not even mentioning the President's name during Congressional speeches.

One Democrat believed to be in trouble, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, denies the Post story, telling reporters, "Speaking personally, I fully support whatshisname. I'd go so far as to say there isn't an inch of air between whoozis and me. I told that to President So-and-So himself just the other day. In fact, you can quote me when I say that I back whaddayacallit 100 percent."

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Friday, September 19, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: CODE PINK EDITION

During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the growing threat of ISIL, Secretary of State John Kerry was repeatedly heckled by the anti-war activist group Code Pink. 

While acknowledging his own peace protests during the Vietnam War era, Mr. Kerry made a point of explaining the atrocities that the terrorists were now engaged in. When asked what the difference was between ISIL and the Vietnamese, Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge, who slaughtered close to a million civilians from 1954 to 1975, Mr. Kerry replied, "When I was protesting, Richard Nixon was president."

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: COVER GIRL NFL SPONSORSHIP

Cover Girl Cosmetics is facing criticism for its continued sponsorship of the NFL, despite the league's many domestic violence scandals.

Cover Girl spokesperson Debbie Perfidulo told reporters, "Right now, we're reaching out to the more moderate factions of the NFL in order to supply them with enough lipstick, rouge and foundation to fight against the outside forces that are trying to overthrow them." Moderate factions, she added, included players who don't leave bruises, and those who prefer psychological over physical abuse of family members. "It's our way of telling battered women, 'You are not alone.'"

When asked what cosmetics would do in curbing the NFL's domestic violence problem, Ms. Perfidulo admitted, "Not much, really. But on the other hand, high-quality Cover Girl products go a long way in making women forget how they've been abused by their boyfriends and husbands. Our advice to men is 'Make up with make-up!'"

Responding to another question about how this was going to help children who have been assaulted, Ms. Perfidulo said, "That's a very good question. We're hoping that companies like Toys R Us join us in facing this problem in the same way. Abusive men have been bribing their kids and wives with gifts forever. The business community has an obligation to make these gestures that much more easy. And to those who claim we're just covering up the problem," she concluded, "that's what Cover Girl is for!"

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SKINNED ALIVE

These moles are cuter than mine.
One of the more obvious signs of aging is the gradual occurrence of moles and skin tags -- those little clumps that look like pieces of earwax that appear one day and never go away. 


That's the problem with having grown up in a beach town. It was a time when every kid would return home cherry-red after being outside all day. The mothers would say, "A little sunburn won't kill you!" Ha! Good one, mom!

The only thing more disgusting than these splotches is how you look in the immediate aftermath of getting them removed, when you have to go out in public with your face bandaged like you just got shaved by a blind man with one hand and three fingers.

It was my turn yesterday. Not that I really noticed those little clumps. I mean, I don't have to look at myself. My wife, on the other hand, has no choice. And now that our daughter's away at college, she has one less person to focus on. 

It looks something like this.
But there was one other facial matter that my wife really had enough of, and it had nothing to do with ultraviolet rays. For many years I've had a line -- make that a groove -- no, canal, approximately one-inch long running vertically between my eyebrows. I'm not saying it's deep, but I could use it for a piggy bank. Again, I never thought much of it, but my wife certainly has: "Unless you're smiling, you always look like you're mad at me!" She always sounds mad when she says that.

The only cure for that epidermic aqueduct, she believed, was a shot of Botox. Yes, Botox. You know, short for Botulism Toxic. Right between the eyes. So strongly did my wife feel about this, she was willing to pay for it. This is like covering the jail's electric bill when your husband gets the chair.

Darn! And I could have looked as good as him.
Yesterday, I visited the dermatologist. She sliced off two of the moles -- really, I could have done it myself -- and burned off a third -- which I could have done as well. But I was told that Botox would do nothing for me except prevent me from frowning; the line would remain, albeit not quite as deep. And I would have to return every three or four months for another injection at four C-notes a pop. 

However, there was something else that would plump up the skin and eliminate the line completely. But she wouldn't inject it in that spot due to the possible side effect of blindness. 

I could hear my wife's usual response: Now wait a minute, let's think about this. I knew I was taking a terrible chance, but decided right then and there that continuing to look mad was a price I was happy to pay, if it meant keeping what eyesight I have left.

Unlike the old guys I see on the subway who go through similar procedures, my bandages -- on the neck, face and collarbone -- were small. Even better, my wife was OK with me not risking blindness to make her happy (for now). The little scabs, almost unnoticeable, will heal soon, leaving me looking at least six months younger. 

Now all I need is a couple of pieces of invisible tape to pull back the skin above my eyebrows, and my wife will be able to look at me without confusing me for a running back for the NFL.

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