From time to time some have said my handwriting was imperfect. Ha! To recognise perfection when seen is a lost art.

Below is documentary proof that I reached perfection in handwriting in an age when such things mattered.

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The Palmer Method, despite vigorous opposition from the forces of darkness, supplanted the evil Spencerian Method with its serifs, whorls, flourishes, circles, and crosses. Those forces rebounded with the Zaner-Bloser Method, note that it took the combined efforts of two, to displace noble Palmer. Their triumph did not last long, as that method fell before the onslaught of the D’Nealian Method. No doubt prevailing today is the Twit Method suitable for Tweets.

In short, all has been chaos since Palmer was displaced.

Arthur Palmer (1860-1927) stripped pen(wo)manship of meaningless whorls and flourishes in the name of efficiency, hence the adjective ‘Business.’ (Although what customer of Telecom, Telstra is the cover name now used, Optus, or NAB would ever think efficiency had anything to do with business?)

Judging by the date, this certificate must have been at the conclusion of elementary (my dear Watson) school when I left the halls of Longfellow PS. The rigours of the examination have been blotted out of my memory.

The Hastings (NE) School Board in its wisdom named the elementary schools within its remit after poets and novelists, e.g., (Nathaniel) Hawthorne, (Henry Wadsworth) Longfellow, and (Louisa Mae) Alcott. There is also Morton school named for a less well known writer, Thomas Morton. Think what schools would be named after today? Shootings? Drug addled football players? Yak show hosts?

Good Reads meta-data Rating: 4 from ‎1,234 votes. 425 pages.

Verdict: not the biography of Oppenheimer I was looking for.

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The development of Atomic Bomb in twenty-seven months on a mesa in New Mexico is quite a story from theory to practice.

The book offers a near day-by-day account mostly of the administrivia of Los Alamos. Largely told through the subsequent recollections of the office manager of the project, located at 109 East Palace Street in Santa Fe, Dorothy McKibben, who adored Oppenheimer. In silence the author credits Dorothy with a remarkable and flawless memory for conversations because she recalled them years later without the benefit of diary or any other written record from the time.

Only 40% of the way through the book did this reader notice any discussion of the engineering, technical, and scientific endeavours. Apart from listening to complaints about laundry and indulging the pranks of immature minds, Oppenheimer never comes into focus in these pages despite his image on the cover and his name in the title.

These impressions are not helped by the slangy style of exposition and the credulity of the author who takes as fact whatever a favoured source said. This reader got no sense that any assertions were double checked. In addition, facts were scarce. I never did get an idea how big the operation was. Only more than half way through are some numbers mentioned, e.g., 3,000 but given the one-eyed perspective of the author I was unsure who was included in that number.

I said one-eyed because the author is always on the side of the scientists, say when they complained about secrecy and security and seems repeatedly to belittle both the GIs who built most of the set-up and the intelligence agents who censored the mail, kept strangers away, demanded to see passes, and so on.

The immaturity of many of the scientists involved is breath-taking, the more so later when some of the same individuals took it upon themselves later to pontificate about the use of the Bomb. Even the fraternity brothers paled at some of their antics. While some of these draft-exempt scientists were planning panty-raids, in 1944 the Pentagon was sending 2000 yellow telegrams a day to mothers and wives.

Most of the Europeans on the project were more serious because Naziism was a reality to them, and not a newsreel. Indeed so focused were they on Germany that when the war ended in Europe many wanted to quit the project. They had so quarrel with Japan since it had no bomb and no prospect of one. Their goal was to get to the Bomb before the Naziis did.

At this point Oppenheimer was, it seems, crucial in motivating them to work ever harder, far from quitting. That he did this is, however, not explained by anything in his nature or character developed earlier in the book. Yet it was certainly crucial and he was the one who did it. We did get earlier the grudging admission by one of his many critics that Oppenheimer, despite his dilettantish pre-war mien, had proven adept at getting all those (egotistical) scientists to talk to each other. No mean feat that. More exposition of how that was managed would be welcome.

There are many assertions that Oppenheimer was attractive to women, that he had blue eyes, and a confident manner. So what? There are many of these and none of them built the bomb. There had to be more than these superficial descriptions to explain his singular achievements as noted in the paragraph above. Using the word 'charisma' is neither analysis nor explanation.

Oppenheimer is the centre of the book, even if he is seldom on the page. His own disregard of security is numbing. Why did he do those things that later would look so damning? My own conclusion is hubris. In the first instance Oppenheimer was sure, because he was so much smarter than everyone else, he would never make a mistake and give anything away, no matter to whom he talked. Second, he was likewise sure he would always be able to talk his way out of suspicion. So he thought.

Instead he simply called attention to himself again and again, and it stuck. And he created a pattern that was at best reckless and at worst sinister.

That a skilled intelligence agent could learn much from what is not said, or from the lies told, these are tricks of the spy trade that Oppenheimer never considered, since his hubris meant he never thought anyone else could out think him.

His hubris had another strand. After the war, he could have gone back to Cal and time might have healed some of the wounds, but instead he haunted Washington, putting himself forward as Mr. Atom, advocating committees, and himself as a member. He was hard to miss. He had come to view himself as indispensable. Maybe he was, but the effect, given the two strands already mentioned, was to make himself into a target. He seems always to think he was an invulnerable Achilles.

While the author mocks the efforts of the security officers with the fact that they missed Klaus Fuchs, who was indeed passing information to Them, she seems to fail to see that the security officers were right. There were leaks. Fuchs, by the way, was not the only source of leaks but the most well placed.

Nor does the author indicate any effort at ascertaining, say by visiting the National Archives, whether German agents were active in the matter. Still less other Soviet agents who monitored Oppenheimer when he was away, as was often, from Los Alamos.

The drama accelerates quickly in the middle of the book, and we read less about bickering, picnicking, and laundry, when it is time to test Trinity.

Trinity.gif The Trinity test at 10 seconds after detonation.

Though here, as always, is a squabble about the name which is dutifully recorded by the author.

Yet she sits on the fence about the use of the bomb. She quotes estimates of causalities of the projected November 1946 invasion of Japan and then in a rare footnote says this figure might have been fabricated. That is quite an accusation to make in a throwaway footnote. It is a fact, by the way, that the Pentagon planners had begun preparations for 500,000 American casualties from an invasion of Japan. It had also contracted for 10,000 yellow telegrams a day.

What president would not use the bomb in preference to such a toll?

Given the many uncertainties involved with the Bomb, the only way to go was to use it. Why? What demonstration would convince the Japanese? Blow up an uninhabited island? Not likely to be convincing. They would suspect a trick. That the Bomb would even work was always in doubt. If it did not work on the island, then it would serve no purpose but waste the weapon and do so in a way that nothing could be learned from the failure. And a failed demonstration would queer the pitch for another demonstration.

Moreover, the weapons grade uranium was so scarce and hard to use that wasting a Bomb on an island might mean another one was not available for some time. Furthermore transporting the Bomb to the Pacific was hard. The cruiser USS Indianapolis that delivered the first Bomb was sunk by a Japanese submarine a few days after completing that mission. (See 'Jaws' [1975] for confirmation.) Would the next ship transporting a bomb be sunk with it on board?

The prospect of besieging Japan into surrender was considered and rejected on many grounds. The Soviet Union would nibble away at Japanese weaknesses, while leaving the hard work to the United States. Little material support would come from a depleted England. The Chinese would turn full-time to fighting among themselves. During a prolonged siege the young, the women, and the civilians would suffer most as scarce resources would go to the defence forces. The result would be to cripple Japan for a generation or more without discrediting or displacing the war party.

Douglas McArthur always preferred manoeuvre and surprise to direct attacks, but he saw no other way in 1945.

The zealots in Japan were ready to fight on, and the example of Okinawa frightened everyone in the Pentagon. They would fight to the death unless the Emperor ordered them not to do so. To get to that order, the zealots had to be completely undermined. Hence the first big bang. It was made all the more dramatic for being a single aircraft. Japanese air defence spotted it but did not respond to its approach, assuming it was photographic reconnaissance.

In the two-day interval allowed for the Japanese to assess the destruction of Hiroshima, we now know what was unknown in D.C. at the time, that there was an abortive coup d'état, but it came to nothing. The second bomb, by the way, was not targeted on Nagasaki but bad weather took it there.

Back to the book in hand, the author seems to relish name dropping, as if everyone associated with a notable university is somehow a superior person. I could only put this down to an ingrained snobbery. This attitude shows also in the way those who were not blessed with such illustrious associations are portrayed. General Lesley Groves is one example. He, more often than not, is portrayed just one step away from Groucho Marx. Yet he oversaw an unprecedented and wide-spread effort of which Los Alamos was only a part, but he gets barely any credit, until, perhaps at the urging of editor, some condescending good words are applied toward the end. But overall the tone is, how could this nobody criticise these men from prestigious universities. Yes, Groves had an MIT degree, but he was but a student there, and in those days, by the way, MIT did not have the caché it does now, partly thanks to graduates like Groves.

Yet the text shows he was right about many things, like the irresponsibility of some of the scientists, about the need for secrecy, about the dubious nature of the undertaking, about the subsequent need to explain and justify everything done, and even the spies. More importantly, that he stuck by Oppenheimer as the right man for the job even though he did not like him.

The author has an admirable list of titles on related subjects.

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So be it. Not for me. Reading this book but confirms my cynicism about the world of New York City publishing.

Nice to see someone else asking about the responsibilities of the regulatory authorities in banking and financial service (cf. my earlier post on the regulators). Though disappointing not see cited John Braithwaite and Peter Grabosky, ‘Of Manners Gentle: Enforcement Strategies of Australian Business Regulatory Agencies’ (Oxford University Press, 1986). In this Australian empirical study the authors found there was neither enforcement nor strategy, but a great deal of ‘she’ll be right,’ while six-figure salaries were paid to the regulators, evidently on the assumption that nothing so untoward as enforcement would occur.

It seems little has changed. In the 1980s I was surprised to witness the hostile reaction to this book. I heard it denounced more than once as evidence that the authors did not understand the Australian way. That was about the same time the media was ridiculing Dutch bankers who had come to Australia to confront and complain about Alan Bond. The flag was raised and the Dutchmen sent packing. Hypocrisy is always amusing. The more so when it is wrapped in nationalism, since many Australians brag that they are not nationalistic, in between bouts of hysterical nationalism frequently kindled by sports.

A propos of the regulators, I infer from what is not said in O’Brien’s piece that the Royal Commission is carefully steering clear of bringing their role(s) into question. Is that discretion itself another instance of manners gentle?

By chance the other night I spoke to a graduate who works for an unnamed regulator and asked about all of this. In reply I got the corporate line about the technicalities of the legislation. My informant pretended to believe it, and politely I pretended to take its seriously. Ah uh. Regulators who find that their legislation is inadequate have, often, a legal responsibility to point that out to parliament, and, always, a moral responsibly to offer some sort of warning. Sailing on is not an option.

O’Brien also omits the role of the media and those financial wizards in newspapers, on radio, and the television telling one and all about money in all its sizes and shapes. It seems that all those financial reporters were too busy pontificating to do any investigating and reporting. The independent ABC and the independent ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ were as silent on this subject as all the other, numerous media outlets, despite their loud and frequent claims to superiority.

Not only are they passed over, but even let off the hook on reporting about the Royal Commission because the Commission publishes on Fridays. Evidently no reporter can be expected to examine material appears on Friday. Must remember that.

Cut and paste this link into a browser to see the article:
http://www.afr.com/business/banking-and-finance/justice-deferred-hubris-incompetence-and-lost-opportunity-in-the-australian-finance-system-and-its-regulation-20180522-h10efl

IMDb meta-data is: 1 hour and 54 minutes of Dali time, rated at 5.6 by 64,947 cinemitizens

Verdict: Morons on Mars in a pastiche of previous films.

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Verdict: As always, Roger Ebert nailed it: A hundred million dollar production with a ten cent script. Think what NASA could do with that money. Plus it is double sappy.

It is a Mars rescue mission that ends with comic book CGI. The players try, but well it gets trying.

In 2020, a mere two years from now, all is peace and harmony on Earth (as if) and the World Space Program sends Dan Cheadle with three others to land on Mars, and where they quickly prove they were never Boy or Girl Scouts.

1. All four of them ride around Mars together in their jeep, leaving no one in reserve back at base.
2. They stand motionless when the storm breaks rather than taking cover, or getting in the vehicle and scooting.
3. Motionless, they also stand close enough together for one CGI rock to finish three of them. ‘Spread out,’ those are often words of sergeant wisdom.
4. Moreover, none of them notices the very conspicuous white protrusion on the top left of the hill that then spits dirt at them. Even the fraternity brothers noticed that.

One of the four survives, and by the way, we never find out how or why, though he refers to himself as having been spared, and that implies selection. Now he has to be rescued.

Of course he will be. There is none of the technical, social, or political dimensions to this undertaking that are set out better in ‘The Martian’ (2016). Cheadle’s wife is never informed of either the deaths or his survival. Yet she and many other wives are much in evidence in the opening barbecue derived from ‘Apollo 13’ (1995). Thereafter she and they are forgotten. In the credits they are styled 'NASA wife 1,' 'NASA wife 2,' and so on. The high horse sighed: every character in a Sam Peckinpah movie always had a name. Every character actor in a Frank Capra movie had screen time, else why have them. Not so here. Might as well have been CGIed.

Oh, except for the wife who goes on the mission as half of a married couple. Sure that would be NASA policy. For fun read the acknowledgement of NASA in the terminal credits, and then try to figure out what the convoluted wording means.

The scriptwriter's old friend, the meteor puts in an appearance at the most (in)opportune time. Bang. Equally predictable these days are the product placements that feature on the NASA hardware. Likewise to be expected is the piteous piling up of a tear-jerker back story, about a dead wife, though we find out nothing about her, she is much displayed as eye candy.

The rescue mission is a failure and lands three astronauts with no gear, equipment, or good dialogue. Their situation is desperate from the get-go and they are there to find Don, if he is still alive. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure. So what do they do first? Well, on behalf of the World Space Mission that sent them they plant a USA flag. Not kidding. That is what they do.

On Mars there is evidently plenty of water because all the actors stay shaved and clean. And the weather isn’t bad since the ripped up and open to the elements tent has green growing plants in it in Mars’s atmosphere, enough to feed them all. Green cheese is shipped in from the Moon to stock up the fridge.By the by the temperature on Mars at this moment is -100F, per the NASA Orion web site.

In a screenplay full of inane lines said with the self-importance of Hollywood, the prize goes to Don who buried his fallen comrades. Well, he dug and marked three graves but he only found one body, but ‘it didn’t seem right’ to make only one grave. Huh? Burn those calories. By the way, Don asks not one word of his wife back on the Earth, despite all the sap about the other two wives. OK, if he did, it was so incidental I missed it.

There is great photography and CGI special effects, including a tribute or two to ‘Space Odyssey 2001,’ the mandatory scenes of weightlessness, and an EVA. Although each is drawn out and out and out striving for epic length, when the additional footage adds nothing.

Spoiler ahead. The enigmatic face and the DNA are interesting and arresting, but they come so late and are trivialised into a comic book take. The alien DVD on evolution would make Disney blush, so lame is it. On the bright side, it would get the film banned in Alabama.

In another repetition of a previous film(s), our hero says he didn’t come this far to turn back now. An astronaut has to …. That he was on a one-way ticket was telegraphed for more than 90 minutes. Even the fraternity brothers got that message through the fog that envelops them.

The end.

For those who like mysteries, figure out how the surviving widow got the neck chain off her dead husband, floating in space out of reach, so that she could later give it to our hero.

Like other entries in the current Mars industry, it was filmed in Jordan. No doubt the Jordan Tourist Board remains hard at work in the Mars industry with its red lens filters.

IMDb meta-data is run time of 1 hour and 11 minutes of purgatory, rated far too high at 2.9 by 551 misguided cinemitizens.

Verdict: there is no curse, no swamp, and a creature in a rubber mask only appears in the last five minutes when all hope for diversion had long been abandoned.

Curse Swammy.jpg Sick green seemed the right colour choice.

Three local villains in East Texas hope to trick geologist John Agar into finding undiscovered subsurface oil.  The trio together score 99 are the Stanford-Binet IQ test.

The catatonic Agar will make said discovery by drifting in a flat bottomed boat along the Red River, calling it a swamp. 

Deep within the ersatz swamp there is a wanna be mad scientist, Dr Dope, and his curvy wife, whom he keeps locked in a room so that she does not interfere with his research. This order of priorities baffled the fraternity brothers, as much does.

By the use of a dry ice bath Dope is trying to transmute individuals into a über creatures with the power to overcome maxed credit cards. His test subjects come from the local village.  So far he has failed and he disposes of the bodies of his fails by feeding them to a swimming pool full of alligators. ‘Do alligators like chlorine,’ asked fraternity brothers?

Needing more unwilling specimens, Dope invites the geological exploration party of four to stay overnight in his house. Being lower case dopes, the accept. The dialogue of this soiree is so painfully inept that even the fraternity brothers cringed.

Meanwhile, the local villagers have noticed the decrease in their number and in response play bongo drums. A lot. Then some more. Having got that out of their systems, they dress up in face paint and hang Dr Dope in effigy.  By this heap big medicine they hope to stop his inroads into to their number. Must be anti-vaxxers. That is colourful but....they decide torches would better thanks to the advice of a consultant in D-Movie schlock.  They organise an angry mob of outraged villagers and...[tension does not mount].

Now that the members of the geological party are asleep on the floor of Dope’s one-room mansion, he selects the conniving woman in the party as his next specimen, syringe to the ready.  Dipped into the dry ice bath, she’s dons the rubber mask with ping pong ball eyes. It is an unexpected and unexplained move for him to select the woman of the group. What does that do to the staples of Creature Features? Namely the creature caring off the babe.

When she comes to life, Dope siccs her on the approaching mob.  Sicks, indeed.  Agar, who barely knows her, appeals to her humanity, she who conspired in the earlier murder of an oilman, and must have been planning Agar’s demise.  Had he not read the script? Well, that appeal didn’t work.

The resourceful Agar then tells her she is a monster because of Dr Dope! Good one! She turns on Dope. They struggle and together fall into the alligator pool.  We see again for the fourth, or was if the fifth time, stock footage of feeding time at a zoo.

The production values are a film school fail.  The mansion is just a house. When Dope drugs the woman he carries a pillow which is supposed to be her back through the living room where the three men in the geological party are sleeping on the floor, kicking and tripping over them, but they sleep on. Sure. Tired out after floating all day.

Yet they are later roused by noises from the very sedate mob. Speaking of that mob, what losers!

The mob comes with torches. With torches! Come on! This is Texas! Where are the AK-47s?  

Credit, such as is due, the fact that there are black faces in this production.  They are the VooDooing villagers whose dwindling number provided Dope’s unwilling specimens when out after dark.  His only henchman is also black.

One drooling NRA member of the geological party assaults a young black women who works as a maid in the mansion and she out smarts him.  Good! But not a high bar, outsmarting him. 

This is another entry in the Texas film industry from the ego and bankroll of Larry Buchanan whose literal re-make of ‘Zontar: The Thing from Venus’ (1966) set a new standard for zero. It, too, featured Agar. Who else would do it? It was even worse than the tiresome original. Both Zontar pictures are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. 'Read at your own risk.'

Admission: I watched it because I thought it related to ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) and his several misadventures in Florida.  Wrong!

Sad to say that this is not the end. There followed: ‘Curse of the Swamp Creature’ (1994) and ‘Curse of the Swamp Creature 2’ (1997). I have not yet had the courage to find out any more about them.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 18 minutes, rated 5.8 by 2358 mouth-breathers.

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The IMDb summary says the Creature escapes and starts killing! ‘Not so,’ cries Perry Mason. Despite the paltry rating by the fraternity brothers, this is a thoughtful rekindling of the franchise of ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) and a welcome improvement on the previous sequel, ‘The Revenge of the Creature’ (1955). Both are subjected to rigorous commentary elsewhere on this blog.

This, the final entry for the Creature. starts with two advantages. It does not star John Agar. Jeff Morrow and Rex Reason lead the cast here. In addition, there is a screenplay with some ideas in it that are developed.

The set up is this. Jeff is a wealthy medical doctor with a trophy wife, who provides the bathing beauty scenes and little else. Jeff, somehow, has studied the traces of the Gill Man, as the Creature is now styled, and has leapt to several conclusions. First is that the Gill Man can be surgically altered to breath just like us to live out of water (so he can walk among us). Second, with his extraordinary strength and endurance Gill Man can lead us to the stars! What, go to Hollywood? No, he means it literally, by using Gill Man we can create a superior race who can survive spaceflight and conquer the universe. 'Jeff, call Elon Musk!'

The fraternity brothers wondered about how this procreating was going to work. Always the same with these bottom feeders.

Rex is taken aback by this divine agenda, since he signed on, being himself a medical scientist, to study the Creature in a controlled environment. He means the Creature no ill; unlike Jeff who wants to cut-and-paste him into … Flesh Gordon,

This polarity is one of the continuing themes, the discussion of which bored the fraternity brothers. Another is the deteriorating relationship between Mr and Mrs Jeff. Every time he tells her not to do something, off she goes to do it. Learning nothing from experience, Jeff keeps telling her what not to do. She shoots sharks for fun. She dives too deep to show off. She flounces around in revealing costumes. She drinks. All very 1950s.

The hired hands notice her, and press their attentions on her. She is not interested in them, but Rex, now that is another chin. He however is ever so correct.

Jeff is all soft spoken, but — as always — he looks worried. Could be the Amex bill he has run up in hiring a cabin cruiser the size of the Titanic and sailing it from San Francisco to the Gulf of Mexico and back with a crew of hired hands to ogle Mrs.

These two governing narratives are set forth with brisk economy in the first fifteen minutes. There follows a lot of padding to reach a respectable length.

Off they go a-Creature hunting, five men in a row boat the size of dinner plate. Best time to find the elusive creature in the swamp is at night, right? With plenty of gas for the two-stroke motor and torches to light the way. He finds them first and attacks. In the melée he is set on fire and rendered unconscious. They capture him. The burns reveal a second underlying skin much like ours. A nip and tuck here and there and he can breath air and walk among us.

He is a modest Creature and the hired hands dress him in some size XXXXXXXL pyjamas. This dressing occurs off camera so the Creature retains mystique.

As he recovers consciousness the Creature is unsure and then makes a break for the water. In he goes, only to discover he is now gill-less and drowns. ‘Cut.’ cried the director. ‘If he dies... we have no movie!’ On cue, Rex and his chin dive in with an oxygen line and save the Creature.

Once in Sausalito Jeff pens the Creature in a stockade with an electric fence. The Creature broods for the water seen in the distance. Rex feels sorry for him, and suggests….well, nothing. He doesn't feel that sorry. Mrs flounces around in a huff. Jeff still has stars in his eyes.

Hired Hand again tries his hand on Mrs, who again pushes him away. Jeff yet again observes and though he blames Mrs for drawing attention to herself, he grows enraged with Hired Hand and clonks him to death. Gulp! What to do? Thinks, Jeff, 'I will blame HH’s death on the Creature.' Little Jeff carries the big hunk of Hired Hand to the pen, turns off the juice, and throws the corpse at the Creature’s feet. How the starry dreamer has fallen to the jungle.

The Creature is confused and lashes out at Jeff who falls over his script. Now the Creature pursues Jeff through the mansion. In ransacking the house to find Jeff, the Creature comes across Mrs, who cowers per the director’s orders, and noble Rex and his chin interpose themselves in front of her. The Creature pauses to look at them. Looking…..

Then he turns away. He has no quarrel with them. Rex and his chin saved him, and Mrs can swim up an eyeful. He goes after Jeff. He finds Jeff. End of Jeff. Jeff, his tormentor and captor is his only victim. By the way no ‘City Screams in Terror’ per the lobby card since all of this action takes place in a rich man’s private compound away from prying eyes.

Then, searching for Virginia Woolf, the Creature walks into the sea. The End. There is no fourth entry in the series.

As Jeff’s marriage failed he reverts to the primitive man who clubs his rival to death and then blames the hapless Creature. Get it? He starts out a star gazer and ends a cave man.

By the way, Jeff and Rex met earlier in 'This Island Earth' (1955), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Jeff had the white hair, and parked his UFO under Rex's chin.

The underwater photography is technically proficient but it is only eye candy in this outing, not integral to the story. Indeed there is a lot of padding in this execution. While this screenplay is preferable to that of 'The Revenge of the Creature,' the scientists make no effort to establish any rapport with the creature or to communicate with him on any level. Not even the word 'Stop.'

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 22 minutes of treacle time, rated 5.6 by 4432 cinemitizens.

Verdict: A major disappointment.

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While ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) had atmosphere, tension, humour, likeable characters, elegant photography, and — most of all— humanity. This sequel from much the same production crew has few, if any, of those qualities. While it still shows some of touches of director Jack Arnold, they are bleached by the inept screenplay.

Some films can be saved by the actors but not in this case. This was the first of fifty B movie creature features/Sy Fy movies that would largely constitute John Agar’s subsequent career. At this stage he was still trying to be an A picture leading man, and not yet sleepwalking in his trademark catatonic style developed later. He is really trying, and very annoying, and so superficial that the fraternity brothers rooted for the Creature.

Not even a pay-check, a director, a screen-play, and a career motivated the ichthyologist to warm to Agar. No rapport puts it mildly. While required to embrace and kiss him, the viewer can see the icicles.

While dead at the end of the marvellous ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ in the previous year, by the miracle of modern medical screenplay writing the Creature is restored to life in the Black Lagoon. The first fifteen minutes consists of his capture. Nestor Pavia, the only hold over from the original, captains the boat with his usual panache.

While Richards Carlson and Denning could not quell the Creature in the original, Bozos One and Two dynamite the lagoon on the assumption either they will kill Creature and take him back for dissection, or knock him unconscious so they can send him home for torture.

This approach alone indicates the Channel 7Mate intellectual level of what follows. Kaboom!

Once captured Creature is put on display for gawkers at Ocean Harbor in sun-bright Florida. There Agar and Ichthie torture him with food and cattle prods. Yep. Several times. Repeatedly. Their aim is to teach him to stop on the word ‘Stop.’ High level science it is. The fraternity brothers called the SPCA.

Ichthie and Agar exchange frozen lips now and then. The fraternity brothers know those kisses for the brush-off they are.

Creature has enough of their prodding and does some of his own. He kills Bozo One in the melée and escapes with ease since no precautions were taken, per the screenplay.

Though Bozo One was well known to both Agar and Ichthie neither misses a beat at his death. Just as neither gives a thought to Creature’s plight at the end of the cattle prod. (Yes, I know, Ichthie once says ‘she almost feels sorry for him.’ Put the emphasis on ‘almost.’ That means she does not feel sorry for him.)

(The next time cattle prods were on screen they were used by Bull Connor’s police in Birmingham on protestors.)

The opportunities lost were many. One of the strengths of the original was the underwater photography and the swimming of the stuntman, Ricou Browning, who is also in this one. There is some imitation of the original and Arnold’s touch shows in it, but it is not integrated into the insipid story. Moreover, once in Florida's glare the mystery of the Black Lagoon is gone. There is another Arnold-moment when the peeping and stalking Creature is transfixed by the sight of Ichthie in her boudoir. But again it is cut before it sinks in.

In the aquarium there are some nicely framed shots from the water into the viewing area and the reverse that could have used for communion if not communication between the two worlds, but not so. The potential is palpable, but left at as a showy camera shot, not integrated into the story.

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The Wiki word is that despite the commercial success of the original, the studio cut the budget for this reprise to the bone, because of losses on other pictures. The McKinsey managers’ assumption was, as is often the case and often right, the audience would be too stupid to notice. Considering the undeserved high score on the IMDb maybe they were right in the long run.

Whereas in the original the deaths of associates were shocking and disturbing, in this one it is not even clear to this inattentive viewer, ahem, if Agar and Ichthie realise Bozo was torn apart. Instead they go out on a dinner-dance date. Indeed they show no interest in the escaped Creature and feel no responsibility for anything. 'Don’t blame them; they written that way.'

Now the Creature has no trouble spotting Ichthie and puts his moves on her. The de rigueur scene of the Creature Feature lobby card occurs as he carries her off into the night. Where promptly he puts her down. Must be heavier than she looks.

In the end Creature obeys Agar’s command to stop, so that the assembled NRA members can shoot him down. Another triumph for US foreign policy. See something foreign, shoot it.

The end.

Maybe Creature is the only sympathetic character in this soup because he does not have to speak any of the tepid and dreary lines of the screenplay. Silent and brooding with such underwater grace and agility, he embodies a personality none of the dry players can match.

A recurrent theme in Jack Arnold’s movies is the situation of women professionals, career and family. It is here in some dialogue but so poorly executed one suspects Arnold inserted it and the screen writer made no effort to integrate it. Still Ichthie does muse on her choice as a career woman and where will it lead, when most of her gal pals are now married with children. Agar ignores these concerns, per the mores of the time.

Revenge Clint.jpg

Perhaps the only thing that makes the movie worth watching for anyone who is not a copper-bottomed Sy Fyian is that it is Clint Eastwood’s film debut. He has thirty-seconds as a lab technician in the early going.

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