Inspired by ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) the prodigious Danziger Brothers — Harry and Edward — turned their hands and low budget to sci-fi in this effort. It offers inspired casting and a prescient screenplay, and we watched it the other night. Well I watched it twice. to get the subtlety.

Devil Girl, indeed. Patricia Laffan is THE movie. When she is on screen there is tension, there is presence, there is drama and when she is not, there is none of the above. On her more below.

Devil poster-1.jpg

In the remote Scots moors an odd assembly takes refuge in a lonely inn. A married couple run the place, baby sitting a grandson, with a handy man, elderly Jim, and girl of all work who is mainly seen at the bar. With the winter approaching the only guest is a beauty from the big smoke and then a scientist with a newsman in tow arrive to investigate the strange lights in the sky. An escaped convict also insinuates himself in the group. Otranto Inn is now ready for the night ahead.

Devil poster-2.jpg

The scientist and newsman provide masculine leadership by debunking the worries of the women about those strange lights in the sky. ‘Just your imagination, my dear.’ They seem to have forgotten that those lights are why they are there in the first place. By now we know better. After the predicable confrontation with the convict, instant jealously over the beauty, and more condescension, Nyah appears!

Can that woman make an entrance. Seven times by my count. Shazam, indeed. The part of Nyah was made for Patricia Laffan, who is cool, calm, implacable, and pronounces her diabolical purpose with diction that would bring a smile to the twisted lips of Professor Henry Higgins. Her vowels are so round; her consonants are so icy.

Nyah-1.png

With a black leather body suit, a cat-like skull cap, a Darth Vadar cape, a mini-skirt avant le mot, and a ray gun, she has it all. Then there is the spaceship and within, Chani, the tin-man. (I thought she was calling him ‘Johnny’ which seemed awfully informal for Nyah, but on a long flight, well….)

Nyah has no time for small talk, nor, I suppose, for a shipboard romance with Chani; she is all business and the business is men!

The near-sighted, shuffling Jim with the feeble manner of an emeritus professor is a poor physical specimen, she declares. Poof! That's it for Jim. He is no longer a drain on the taxpayer.

On Mars the emancipation of the women led to open warfare between the sexes. The females won, usurping the political power of the men. This eventually led to the sexual impotence of the planet's entire male population. (Remember Louis Malle’s ‘Lune Noire?’ Look it up, Mortimer.)

She is Hillary Clinton! Come to emasculate the Republicans! ‘Go, girl’ we shouted from the couch! Grab ‘em by you-know-whats!

Just like the Republicans, the first reaction of the men is amused disbelief. What, after all, would a woman know!

After a few object lessons, the next reaction is brute force. Why negotiate when a good whack should fix things. Think of the 7MATE demographic. Efforts to beat sense into her backfire.

Stage direction. The telephone lines are down. The only automobile won't start. Darkness falls. They are isolated and alone. They will have to work together to overcome this one woman who threatens life as men know it. Gasp!

But wait, what is the problem?

She wants men. Call for volunteers, Nyah! But stand back to avoid the rush!

The screenplay wobbles. At times she wants spirited and unwilling men and at other times the docile tweenager seems to be preferred. This Devil Girl has trouble making up her mind. How like a woman in the stereotype of the era.

The screenplay is inane and most of the acting, especially the male leads, ranges from wordy to wooden and back. The special effects are far from special, even by the standards of 1954. The tin-man clearly had no tin or much of anything else barely making it down the ramp much like the late Jim.

Lobby posters the interweb give three women top billing. How rare is that! How rare was that in 1954.

Patricia Laffin, per the biography on the IMDB, was ‘a statuesque and striking actress with vaguely reptilian aspects, at once sinister and alluring; a smile that was as much a sneer and a commanding, imperious presence suggesting innate superiority with a delivery that was at once sardonic and disdainful.’

Stop there. That is Nyah.

Nyah is precise, frigid, fiery, and languid. This woman could be hot and cold simultaneously.

Laffan did not fit the pigeon holes of the time and was relegated to supporting roles as a villain or an eccentric. Our loss. (But she stole the show from Peter Ustinov in 'Quo Vadis' (1951) before hitting warp speed as Nyah.)

The men had their turn in ‘Mars Needs Women’ (1967), but Tommy Kirk in a wet suit one size to large for him just does not have what Nyah had! He called for volunteers and none came. Not even Annette.

Mars_Needs_Women_FilmPoster.jpg

Both can be found on You Tube.

The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words. Not so.

Here is a picture that has been often seen. For those born yesterday, it is Vice-President Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office for president in November 1963.

LBJ oath.jpg

Class. write down everything you know about the scene.

Did you know this?

At President Kennedy’s death in Highland Park Hospital, Johnson had been told by the Attorney-General’s office to take the oath of office immediately. This counsel was affirmed vigorously by the military advisors who travelled with the deceased president. Why? Why no respectful period of mourning?

In that uncertain time in the Cold War nuclear age, the fear was that a hot head somewhere might take precipitous and irreversible action. Remember ‘Dr Strangelove!’ One prophylactic was an immediate and seamless transfer of power to new hands.

It was also stressed by all concerned that the new president should get to Washington D.C. as soon as possible to take up the reins and calm public fears.

The Secret Service also wanted to insure the security and safety of the new president, in case there was more to come. The times they were indeed uncertain and foreboding.

Ergo the ragtag group around the Vice-President set off for Air Force One to fly to Andrews Airforce Base. A ragtag assembly, yes, it was; but all the same some thought did into its composition even in those dark and dreadful hours.

Before leaving the hospital Johnson, with the presence of mind he often had, asked for a judge to join the group on Air Force One to administer the oath of office. He also insured press photographers were on board to document and broadcast the moment.

And not just any judge.

He asked for a judge by name: Sarah T. Hughes. She is the woman with her back to the camera.

Hughes judge.jpg Judge Hughes

Johnson had nominated her twice for more senior federal judicial appointments, and each time it was blocked, because she was woman, because she was too old, because Johnson had nominated her was enough for Attorney-General Robert Kennedy to oppose her promotion.

In a kind of overdue compensation, Johnson bestowed upon her the historic role of swearing in the president there on Air Force One. But wait, there is more.

It also showed that same Attorney-General who was now in charge.

For the same purpose — demonstrating the smooth and immediate transfer of power — to calm the US populace and show the Soviets that it was business as usual, he asked Mrs. Kennedy to stand with him in the bloodstained clothes she wore. The torch was passed.

The picture alone tells us none of this. So much for the lie that a picture is worth a thousand words. This one alone is not even worth the four hundred words it takes to explain it.

When I upset a bookshelf groping for a power point a volume of Robert Caro’s magisterial biography of LBJ fell to the floor and in restoring it to the shelf, I noticed this picture.

I break my rule and write about a book I disliked, doing so in part to crystallise what it is that I did not like about, and why I tried so hard to read it.

I tried to read this book years ago, and was recently moved to try again since my interest in Portugal was kindled again a few months ago by reading about the Carnation Revolution of 1974 but my efforts to find Portuguese novels that I might like have failed.

Yes, I have read some by that Nobel Prize winner, José Saramago, but found them desiccated, didactic, and dull. In short, lifeless. They told me nothing about Portugal or any Portuguese.

Reviews of lists of Portuguese novels on websites did not help either where even the krimis were described by the deadly term ‘surreal’ that is code for incomprehensible and self-indulgent which some mistake for creativity. On such lists I found ‘Ballad of Dog’s Beach’ by José Cardoso Pires which I read and reviewed elsewhere on this blog. It did not inspire me to choose another title from such lists. As an indicator of nonsense the term ‘surreal’ is as reliable as the label ‘post-modern.’

Robert Wilson is routinely accorded the accolade of a best selling author on the covers of his many novels from major publishers. All hail. The reviews in credible sources are respectful, if not enthusiastic. Knowing that I know nothing, I tried again.

Lisbon cover.jpg

It has a split story line, then and now with some in-between, and the reader, I guess, is supposed to be puzzled about how they come together. Me, I just assumed some hocus-pocus would bring them together. I cannot abide this approach to story-telling because it puts responsibility on the reader to make sense of what is written. This joke is not for this folk.

The respectful reviewers say it offers a travelogue of Lisbon and that is what enticed me to read the book both times. So on I went, screen-by-screen on the Kindle. My dentist does not approve, all that gnashing, grittimg, and grinding of my teeth which will undo his good work. With the iron discipline for which I am famed, I quit — again — at 61%, according to the Kindle.

Here is what I found as I made my way to that 61%.

We have Klaus Felsen a German businessman forced to go to Portugal in 1941 to buy rare industrial metals for the Nazi regime and to try to prevent the British from getting them, too. It seems he is the only man for the job since he speaks Portuguese, learned from a few weeks with a Brazilian woman. Ah huh. Fluent no doubt. It is February 1941, and there is one reference to the Eastern Front, though there was not one until 22 June 1941. The hindsight is all to evident throughout.

Sometime in the 1990s we have world weary inspector Zé Coelho, who mouths gratuitous criticisms of the society he serves, and despises those who cooperated with the late and unlamented Salazar regime, a group that would have included most of the country. He wears his alienation on his sleeve. Everyone he meets is awful. Especially those with money. So it goes. When figures in police procedurals engage in this kind of cheap cynicism, my supposition is that the reader is to take it as social criticism. Ever the rebel, I take is as cheap cynicism.

There is a lot of coming and going in Lisbon of the 1990s, and I liked that. I used a Google map to follow some of it on the iPad. That kept me going as long as I did.

Lisbon map.png Lisbon street-1.jpg Lisbon stret-2.jpg

The book also features much sex. Both of the protagonists, Felsen and Coelho, are irresistible to every woman they pass. There is enough detail to satisfy a gynaecologist.

Felsen, the good German, also goes in for murder and torture, and these deeds are also lovingly described from anatomy textbooks: wires to the genitals of the helpless victim. No electricity, just wires. The thugs, these he kills with rocks.

Time passes in the back story from 1941 and Felsen remained in Portugal when the war ended. He gets even with all his enemies, in part, because of the love of Eva. Who? [Sound of violins over the screams of his victims,]

The Portuguese peasants Felsen enslaves to his smuggling operation are described in bestial terms that must give some armchair readers a frisson. Me, I thought how simple-minded such characterisation is. For a dose of reality read the nature poems of John Clare (1793–1864) a day-labouring peasant just like those in this story. If people do not live in cities and read books, they cannot be as fully human as … the author, the reader, the editor. Thugs live and work on Bond Street, too, and even in some universities, I am told.

The preoccupations with sex and money can be readily interpreted in two ways. The first is ‘give them what they want.’ If it sells, write it. Here we may see the hand of the publisher pushing the author along. The other is the projection of the author’s own fantasies onto his characters. Pick one.

There are no compensations in the prose. Much of it is workmanlike and gets us from A to A1. However, there is far too much that is overwritten. ‘Overwritten?’ one might ask. ‘What does that mean?’ Here are a few examples;

‘her knees looked tired’

‘an in articulate shriek’ from a closing door

‘an enclosed man’ who was waiting in the alley

his ‘breath was cigar streaked’

she rose on ‘strong legs’

the ‘walls drank in the evening light’

the school girls began an ‘elephantine dancing’

There are many, many more examples of this overwrought and meaningless prose. I just stopped highlighting them on the Kindle. Each time, this slow wit, had to read the sentence twice in the forlorn hope that there was a point to the prolix prose. Nope.

Wilson pix.jpg

When I gave up I did take a look at the comments on GoodReads and was once again confirmed in the conclusion that it is pointless using that as a reference. The narcissism (look it up. Mortimer) of many comments allows me quickly to skip most entries, and the others read like support of relatives.

Nota Bene. We watched two episodes of the ‘Falcone’ krimi television series derived from another series by this same Robert Wilson set in Seville and found them gratuitously anatomical in the violence for no other reason than to get a restricted rating to make naive viewers think they were getting something hot. While we liked the travelogue of Seville, it was not enough to put up with the plucked eyeballs and roasted human flesh. The effort to shock is so adolescent.

I hesitated a long term before publishing this, but decided to get it out the door. Reading the imbecilic reviews on GoodReads stimulated me to add my two cents.


****
What I would like would be a krimi set in 1974 as the Carnation Revolution unfolded and in the heady-ing and confusing days that followed, catapulting Field Marshall Antonio de Spinola to the head of a committee of national salvation and driving the eternal Salazar regime into exile.

Perhaps such a book exists but I have not yet located it. The dictatorship in the person of President Marcello Caetano refused to abdicate to the upstart captains who led the uprising, and insisted on entrusting the government to a high ranking officer who, of course, had also to be acceptable to the upstarts. There was only one candidate, Spinola, whose public and private criticisms of the regime were known even if uttered sotto voce and published abroad. He did not want the job, the captains did not choose him, and Caetano did not want to concede, but the hour called the man.

Enter Spinola, pulled from one side and pushed from another. The captains wanted a quick result before their tissue thin conspiracy unravelled so they accepted Spinola as the only senior figure they could tolerate. He took on the thankless task as a last service to the country. No biography of him is available in English, or I would turn to that.

If a prospective writer wants the job, here are a few tips.

Make it linear. Have a protagonist who is not the centre of attention but a prism of others.

Also please emphasise Lisbon as a character in the story, not just a backdrop, its hills, it redolent history, the balcony flowers, the worn steps, its narrow streets, the ubiquitous churches, the funicular, the prayer apses on the twisted streets, the allure of the Azores, the stifling shroud of an ancient Catholicism, and the repression that hung over everything, the secret police, mysterious disappearances, political prisoners, the nearby Spanish border and the sclerosis-ridden dictator still crouched behind it, and the exiles in Brazil broadcasting back to Portugal.

Remember also that there were Portuguese military officers, serving and retired, in 1974 who had been volunteers in the Spanish Blue Division with the Nazis at Leningrad, including Spinola himself. Most of all, remember the three colonial wars Portugal was engaged in at the time in which Spinola alone had secured victories and made peace. Add the pirate attack by Portuguese exiles on the cruise liner the Andrea Doria a few years earlier. In the larger environment there is the Cold War and the developing European Union. Rich pickings.

In the foreground perhaps the tension might spring from bringing together an odd couple, say an enemy of the regime with a defender, and each discovers something of value in the other. The stiff devout old guard police investigator who had done military service in Africa teamed with a youthful critic, maybe a journalist. The journalist discovers the police officer is serious and just what he seems to be, simple and honest, not a perverted pederast hypocrite. The officer discovers the journalist is a patriot who wants to elevate Portugal not a slavering communist set on destroying the country and raping nuns.

There are plenty of incidents to choose from, even before the radio music signalling the rebellion, and then later the military counter-coup, the subsequent communist effort to seize power as Lenin did in October 1917, the democratic descent into confusion. All this was in the cities, while in the countryside life continued to follow the rhythm of nature. Or did it? Maybe not on the Spanish border. Maybe not on secluded coastlines where small boats might land unobserved, perhaps from Brazil.

Add to this the reaction of Big Brother in Spain. Franco was still a factor, catatonic though he was.

I have watched some of 'Capitães de Abril' (2000) on You Tube without the benefit of English subtitles. Earnest, this I could see, but lacking in tension to this distant viewer.

How low can Rupert go? Another new record.

I have noticed in the ‘Times of London,’ the ‘Wall Street Journal,’ and our very own ‘The Australian' and no doubt Fox News (but I never watch fiction) that President Barry ‘Bomb ‘em’ Obama is now being sledged.

In an effort to suck up to the Blond Beast, and with Hillary Clinton sidelined, Murdoch Rupert’s organs are now devoted full time to blackening Barry Obama. [Get it?] The snide racism of that woman on Fox News, who has now gone to NBC to continue the bile, is not enough. (The business decision was no doubt that she would drag her audience with her to NBC in the main stream. How the mighty NBC has fallen.)

Now that Vladimir Putin is the Blond Beast’s best friend, Obama cannot be disparaged for being soft on Russia, so….

In a creative leap, the Organs of Rupert have decided — sit down — Obama is a closet, no not that, a closet Marxist! Yes, they have! It has been drumpeted as news, in feature articles, and one of the local hacks has slurred it out a keyboard in an op-ed piece. Piece, indeed.

Proof once again that there is no limit to hypocrisy. (Mitch McConnell has a long way to go to compete with this standard. Keep trying, Mitch! [He hasn’t got a chance, but it doesn’t hurt to see the pathetic clot try.] )

Hypocrisy yes, but hardly original. The Alt Right nut cases have been saying this for eight years. Or that he is an Islamic fundamentalist. Or an alien spawn. Or...... They cannot seem to make up their minds. Wait, ‘minds,’ maybe that is the problem.

But now the nut cases are in charge. H. L. Mencken was right.

Here’s a flash.

Putin and the Blond Beast will pair up as running mates in the next elections in each country.

Or, another:

The Blond Beast will sell, er, marry off one of his children to Putin to cement the alliance.

The post-mortems of the 2016 presidential election in the United States flow. It is all so simple, no wonder the PhDs could not see it coming and still cannot see it going. She is a woman. End.

[Warning, this post is all text. The graphics I reviewed to illustrate Hillary hatred were all so crude and stupid I chose not to include them. They make the programming on Chanel7MATE look refined and cultivated.]

By some mischance I stumbled onto some Hillary Clinton hating web sites the other day. I was so stunned by the cancerous bile that I could not immediately click on with my mouse finger. I have since recovered from the shock of a headline collision with the whacko sickos. A brief digest follows.

Hillary Clinton has sold nuclear weapons to North Korea. (Evidently she carried them to Japan in her luggage when Secretary of State, and ducked into Chinese submarine in Tokyo Bay to hand over the goods.) In return North Korea paid millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. This is the form for many of the fantasies. As if North Korea had millions, apart from counterfeit.

Hillary Clinton has secret meetings with the Elders of Zion to collect still more dosh for the Foundation. As per the protocols of the Elders of Zion these meeting have included a banquet of roasted Christian suckling babies.

Want to know who has funded and armed ISIS? Look no further than Hillary Clinton. She did it.

Ku Klux Klan leader found dead. Guess who did it!

That tornado that destroyed Smallville, she brewed it in her witch’s cauldron.

Bill Clinton went vegetarian for no other reason than to destroy the junk food business. Who put him up to it? Guess! Hillary!

It turns out she plotted with the Russkies to hack into the electoral system and puff up her vote.

The home team lost in the state finals because of referee’s call, well, she paid off the ref to favour the other team.

No villainy is to small for this one-woman coven.

I will not identify the websites since I have no wish to encourage visits.

I stumbled on these when I noticed an angry rejoinder to some innocent remark on the Facebook post about her lead in the popular vote. How, I wondered, could anyone dispute this fact. Little did I know.

It goes on and on, but I don’t.

These fantasies are so absurd, it would take forever to unwind and refute them.

Conclusions that are not reached by evidence and reason, in any case, will not be amended by evidence and reason.

That there is not one scintilla of evidence to substantiate these claims, which is readily and freely admitted in some cases, is the ultimate proof of her guilt. She is so nefarious and spectral that she leaves no evidence. A nocturnal succubus indeed. (Look it up, Mortimer.)

Hating Hillary meets some kind of emotional need in the haters. So it seems given the intensity of the SHOUTS. Yes, they are frequently in capital letters.

However it is not limited to the lunar right but could also be found on the lunar left. The King Street socialists in Newtown, the ones who tape their rants and dire warnings to the street light posts failed to predict the U.S. election result. The old crystal ball is not what it used to be.

For months these semi-literate damnations, each more outraged than the last, denounced Hillary Clinton as a soulless golem who eats babies for lunch and sups with the military-industrial complex.

Applying Occam’s razor to cut away the smoke and mirrors, if a razor can be used to do that, my interpretation remains much simpler. This vote was a plebiscite on gender. A lot of people hate a woman who aspires to the presidency, even more after a black man got the prize. Never again!

The mystery to me of her defeat it how someone so smart, so organised, such a master of the game, did not clinch the states necessary to get the electoral votes. Maybe she listened too often to Al Gore. No wait, surely no one listens to Al Gore.

For years I have heard pygmies declare that ‘ein(e) Berliner’ is a pastry. This is said for the purpose of belittling Jack Kennedy’s use of the phrase, in a speech in Berlin in June 1963, and to deprecate him, too. A search on the web will produce many hits for examples. Enough to satisfy those easily satisfied.

Below is the index card he wrote to insert the phrase in the speech. Before pedants begin correction the spelling, note that it is phonetic and was jotted off in the car on the way to the podium.

JFK card.jpg

Once or twice I have bridled at this casual derogation, based on my own study of German, but that was always dismissed by the interlocutors.

Then one thing was obvious ,,, to those who looked. The Berlin audience in 1963 understood the phrase in the way Kennedy intended.

JFK audience.jpg A crowd of 450,000 according to Wikipedia.

No PhD ever had such a reaction from such a mass of listeners. At the time, at the place it was a message received five by five, loud and clear. There is plenty of evidence on You Tube.

Berliner button.jpg Berliner 2.jpg

The other thing is that it is a grammatically correct statement as even a beginning students of the language know. I have had that confirmed many times over the years by German speakers, and again recently in the image below, taken from a Deutsche Welle website after a murderous attack in Berlin in 2016.

Ich bin ein berliner.jpg

Perhaps the pygmies will now mock these two woman, too, while they bury their dead.

The attacks of pygmies on giants are endless, often petty, always trivial, and seldom accurate. The attacks satisfy some need in the pygmies.

No doubt some entrepreneur in Berlin has been marketing donuts with this meme for years. No doubt someone will offer alternative-facts. It was ever thus.

The other sign says ‘Berlin will hold together.’ Perhaps the best rendering is ‘Berlin will remain.’

It’s a wrap for another year for us Festies. We went to five shows and found three winners, one curiosity, and the fifth.

Festie logo.jpg

In first place is Retro Futurismus. Whatever those Davy girls are on, there should be more of it! Followed closely by Ladies in Black. And showing, Measure for Measure.

That a mature Shakespeare plays came third is a surprise to us, too. But it was in Russian.

Measure_Social_1200x630.jpg

Ladies in Black was good as Goody’s should be. [The cognoscenti will get it, and hoi polloi won’t, and that is as it should be.]

Ladies-in-Black-promo.png

Retro Futurismus is genre-free and sometimes gender bending it is. Vaudeville one reviewer called it, and that will do. It is a variety show with some singing, some dancing, some wall climbing, some aerial without a net, a singing slinky, some ultraviolet light, and some more.

Retro -1.jpg

We found it amazing what can be done with bubble wrap, kitchen tongs, and house bricks. Strewth!

I am at a loss for words, except to say the next time Retro Futurismus puts on a show, I want to be there. The wit, the creativity, the energy, the bonhomie were all contagious.

Though I was intrigued by the description, i failed to list it when we consulted about our Festie this year. Why? Because it started at 09.45 pm, which is a good hour after I am in my pyjamas with a book in hand. But Kate said it was go, and so we went. She was right again. It was go!

We took an Opal bus each way and waited four minutes and nine minutes. The ride was twenty minutes. This I mention to indicate how easy and convenient it was.

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