Monsters

Back in May I stumbled upon an online culture journal, The Hedgehog Review, a publication of the Institute for the Advanced Studies of Culture.  I don’t know much about either the publication or the IASC, other than they’re based out of the University of Virginia, so I can’t speak to their degree of implicit Leftist infiltration, but default position is that any organization in 2020 that isn’t explicitly conservative is probably Left-leaning.

It’s sad that I even have to make that disclaimer, because some part of me still clings to the old ideal of a broad, humanistic approach to knowledge—that we should examine ideas on their own merits, not on the politics of the entities espousing them.  I still believe that ideal is worth pursuing; I just also believe it is currently dead, or at least on life-support.

But I digress.  The then-current issue of The Hedgehog Review was dedicated entirely to the theme of “Monsters.”  It being the Halloween season, the time seemed ripe to revisit those pieces, and the idea of “monsters.”

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Archive (2020)

It’s Monday morning, which means it’s a good time to ease into the week with a movie review.  Readers may be concerned that my blog is turning into a movie review site, given the slew of recent movie-related posts.  Even Friday’s guest post was a movie review!

What can I say?  October seems to be prime movie-watching season, what with Halloween approaching and the general fun and merriment of the holiday.  It’s also getting coldalbeit gradually, and only in fits and spurts—which makes for prime film viewing conditions.  Toss in RedBox‘s generosity with coupons, and it’s a recipe for weekly movie reviews.

So it was that I came to pick up 2020’s Archive.  It’s a British sci-fi flick that follows a familiar Frankenstein plot:  a man’s obsession with restoring his deceased wife in the form of a hyper-advanced AI leads him down a dangerous road.

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Cross-Posting on OCF

Readers surely noticed that this morning photog and I cross-posted to each other’s blogs.  photog—the proprietor of Orion’s Cold Fire—contributed a review of the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

To read my essay to his site—“The Concerns of a 35-Year Old Man in 2020“—you can click here.

photog asked me to comment on the concerns facing a Millennial in today’s world, so I dove into the various financial and social strains that have marked my generation.  I hope my whining adequately covered some of the nuance of the difficulties my generation endures, while also acknowledging our considerable blessings.

It was a great deal of fun to collaborate and guest-post with photog.  I’m a big admirer of his blog, and have contributed before, so it was great to share posts and get some fresh perspectives on the site.

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Guest Contributor – photog – “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Blogger photog and I decided to swap posts this Friday as a bit of cross-promotion for our sites.  photog is a multi-talented man—a writer, a photographer, and a reviewer—and he possesses a real knack for writing great movie reviews.

So when he asked me what he should write about, I proposed something related to science-fiction, a genre he knows well.  I was thrilled when he came up with a review of an Atomic Age gem, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, from 1953.  The film was apparently a major influence on the Godzilla films, and spawned a number of “creature features” in the 1950s.

You can read more of photog’s reviews, as well as his political writing, at www.orionscoldfire.com.  It’s worth checking out!

With that, here is photog’s review of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms:

This 1953 movie is the grandaddy of all the atomic monster movies.  The next year saw the appearance of “Them,” the giant atomic ants and Godzilla which really was a sort of knock off of the “Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.”  At least theoretically this movie is based on Ray Bradbury’s short story “Fog Horn.”  But other than the one scene where the Beast attacks a lighthouse there isn’t anything in the story that informs the plot of the movie.

So, this is the story of an arctic atom bomb test that predictably thaws out an amphibious dinosaur.  After killing one member of the military team via avalanche the beast heads south to re-enter his old stomping grounds in the Hudson River undersea canyon.  On the way it capsizes a couple of Canadian fishing ships, demolishes a Maine lighthouse and flattens a Bay Stater walking along the shore of Massachusetts.  Well, for that one you really can’t blame him.  I’m sure the guy had it coming.

And as these movies usually go, the military gets in touch with an academic expert on dinosaurs who is always an old man with a funny accent who always has a somewhat attractive young woman working as his assistant.  The military provides the old professor with access to a bathysphere and the scientist descends into the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the Hudson River and is promptly eaten (or something) by the beast.

Now the protagonist (a French scientist who was somehow associated with the US Army’s arctic A-bomb test) rallies the military and leads the effort to destroy the monster as it rampages through lower Manhattan.  Early on it eats one of New York’s Finest in the person of a cop who attempts to take down the giant reptile with his service revolver.  Then the beast goes on a stroll down Broadway and crushes various cars and small buildings.  Finally, the Army moves in some bazookas and draws blood from the beast by blowing a hole in its neck.  But, wouldn’t you know it, its blood is full of virulent germs that have the soldiers keeling over after only minutes.

Fearing that explosives would start a plague the French guy proposes that a radioactive projectile be shot into the wound on the beast’s neck and thereby kill him without spreading his germs.  After swimming back into New York Harbor, the beast resurfaces at Manhattan Beach (which is in South Brooklyn) and the beast heads straight for Coney Island and begins destroying the Cyclone, the big rickety wooden roller coaster at the famous amusement park there.

The French guy and an army marksman don radiation suits and take a roller coaster ride to the top of the coaster’s highest hill in order to have a clear shot at the beast’s neck.  From that vantage point the marksman hits the bullseye and then they clamor down the side of the coaster before the beast’s death throes bury them in the rubble of the demolished ride.  Of course, the wooden ride bursts into flames proving just what a death trap it really is.  But by then the beast is dying and as we watch he breathes his last.  French guy and somewhat pretty paleontologist are now free to explore the romantic relationship that almost always await the survivors of atomic monster incidents.

This is one of my favorite old monster movies because New York is my old stomping grounds.  In fact, the beach in Brooklyn (Manhattan Beach) where the beast resurfaces was where I first met Camera Girl forty-five years ago.  So, we have that in common.  There weren’t a lot of famous actors in this movie but the special effects were handled by Ray Harryhausen and the sharpshooter was played by Lee Van Cleef of spaghetti western fame.  Now there isn’t any detectable acting going on except for the old professor played by veteran actor Cecil Kellaway.  But it combines the gung-ho attitude of all military movies before the Vietnam war era along with the silly mayhem expected when giant monsters are eating and stepping on people.  I highly recommend this silly romp but warn millennials that it was shot in black and white (the horror!).

Movie Review: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

After returning from Universal Studios yesterday, I decided to ease back into the week with a couple of flicks.  Hulu isn’t the best of streaming services in terms of content, but lately I’ve uncovered some good older films on the platform, and occasionally I’ll uncover some hidden gems.

To be sure, there’s a good bit of garbage, too, especially this time of year, when the budget horror flicks pop up like weeds.  I watched 1972’s The Last House on the Left last night before catching the subject of this review, and it was a lurid bit of early 70s exploitation.  It didn’t necessarily endorse the violence and depravity it depicted, but it certainly seemed to revel in it.  At its best, it was a morality tale about the dangers of the hippie movement and misguided youthful energy; at its worst, it was an excuse to torture pretty girls on screen.  I’d recommend giving it a pass.

The second film I watched, however, is one I will highly recommend:  1976’s The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.  It stars a barely-thirteen-year old Jodie Foster in a command performance, along with a young Martin Sheen, who must have been about twenty-six at the time.

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Phone it in Friday XVI: Week in Review (5-8 October 2020)

I’m out of town for a few days, so I’m resorting to something I rarely do:  a week in review post.  Some bloggers feature these weekly, such as my blogger buddy Mogadishu Matt.  I sort of did one back with “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap,” but that was more a review of a week-long series of posts, not a review, per se, of the week itself.

Ah, well.  That’s just nit-picking.  Here’s what I wrote about this past week:

That’s it for this edition of Phone it in Friday.  Here’s hoping I wrote some material good enough that you don’t mind reading it (and reading about it) again.

Happy Friday!

—TPP

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TBT: Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

It’s getting into that spooky time of year, so for this week’s TBT I decided to look back at “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap.”  I spent most of my Spring Break this year reading horror short stories, writing reviews about and recommendations for some of the better stories I read.

I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed.  I will add that love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror.  The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.

With that, here is “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap“:

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Morning Movie Review: Brazil (1985)

In continuing with last week’s review of The Empire Strikes Back—and this week’s unofficial theme of keeping posts light—I decided to jot off this quick review of a very good, very deep film, the dystopian dark comedy Brazil.

This film has been on my watch list for some time, and a timely RedBox 50% off on-demand streaming coupon made it a compelling rental for a Monday night.  It was well worth the $2.15; indeed, I may even watch it again tonight, just to catch details I likely missed the first time.

The basic premise of Brazil is to envision an excessively bureaucratic society, in which filing the proper paperwork and avoiding blame—the hallmarks of any bureaucracy—matter more than doing what’s right or decent.  Indeed, the highest good in the nameless society of Brazil is to keep the bureaucracy chugging along, and to wrap everything up in red tape.

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Monday Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back

The brouhaha over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court will provide ample blog fodder in the days ahead, but there is plenty of time to get into senatorial wrangling.  Mondays should be eased into a bit, so I’m taking today to write a short review of one of the best (and probably most over-reviewed) films of all time, The Empire Strikes Back.

Growing up as a chubby kid in the 1990s, I was a huge Star Wars fan.  That was long before the new trilogy retconned/soft-rebooted everything and destroyed the legacy of classic Star Wars, and even before the prequels made the flicks even more cartoonishly ridiculous.  I’m not even a huge critic of the prequels—they were never going to live up to the perfection of the original trilogy—and I enjoyed some of the fun world-building and thorny trade blockades of Phantom Menace (although that’s all a bit too technocratic for a space opera).  But the magic of the original trilogy is more than the sum of its parts, and it’s based on rich storytelling and exceptionally strong character development, with nearly every major character growing and evolving over the course of the three films.

That was readily apparent in Empire, which my girlfriend and I saw (for five bucks!) on the big screen Saturday evening.  It has been many years since I’ve watched the original trilogy, and I’m regretting that now.  Empire catches the main trio of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo at transitional points in their development:  Luke at the beginning of his Jedi training with Master Yoda; Leia assuming great command responsibilities in the Rebellion while also wrestling with her feelings for Solo; and Han feeling the tug of his old life (and debts) while maturing as a man capable of great self-sacrifice for his friends.

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