View from the end of our street, February 22nd, 2019

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Goldfinger: 007 Nukes the Fridge

Major Spoilers Ahead!

          Last night my wife and daughter joined me for a home screening of Goldfinger (1964), the third outing of superagent James Bond, a production that cost as much as the two previous films.  I can't honestly say that was a fact that helped it at all.  I figure that everyone interested in a 55-year old film has probably seen it already, but my daughter hadn't, so pay heed to the spoiler warning; I'm not kidding!

          So I bought the first three movies in a DVD package because Bonnie was into the nostalgia, and I wanted Sidra to see the process that had started the franchise toward its modern form.  In the first movie, Dr. No (1962), the U.S. space program was in its infancy and having trouble, as some unknown actor was tampering with the guidance controls of the missiles.  This is a straightforward plot for a spy movie, and 007 was brought in to investigate the murder of a fellow agent, said investigation leading him to the main plot.  The sets they designed for the big bad's hideout could have been a bit more realistic, but they weren't bad in comparison to other presentations of the time.

          In the second outing, From Russia with Love (1963), we see what is in my opinion the most realistic and believable Bond, as the nationless SPECTRE organization, masquerading as the Soviets, has a beautiful code clerk lure him into a fatal trap by dangling a top secret code machine as bait with the caveat that Bond must retrieve it (and her) from Russia.  The features of this movie are plausible action taking place against a grounded plot, culminating in one of the most spectacular fights in cinema history.

          And then came Goldfinger.  Apparently having decided that realism is boring, the production company all but turned this movie into a live-action cartoon.  The plot is ludicrous.  Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe), a gold magnate obsessed with wealth and the metal itself, has hatched up a plot to rob the U.S. Gold Repository at Fort Knox, silly enough by itself.  Or maybe not, because after 007 tickles this plot out of the villain, his real plan comes to light:  He intends to detonate an atomic bomb inside the vault, rendering the entire gold supply of the United States too radioactive to get near for at least half a century, and multiplying the value of his own holdings by ten.

          If the plot is over the top, the principals are no less outrageous.  The henchman, Oddjob, a Korean superman in an ill-fitting tuxedo, is played to subtle perfection by Japanese-American athlete and professional wrestler Harold Sakata who won a silver medal in weightlifting for the U.S. in the 1948 London Olympics.  Oddjob's "gimmick," (and don't all the Bond villains have to have one?) is his steel-brimmed top hat, which he throws like a Frisbee to cut the heads off of statues, and drop fleeing victims in their tracks.  Short in stature but larger than life, during his climactic fight scene with 007 in the vault he is pummeled with bars of gold bullion thrown from a range of under ten feet, battered with a wooden pole at least 6" in diameter, and attacked with a steel control lever from a piece of machinery, remaining all the while unaffected by anything 007 tries.  The superspy finally electrocutes him when he grasps his hat to pull it from between two steel bars by touching a live power cable to the metal.

          The first two Bond Girls had the attractive, if "normal" names of Honey Rider and Tatiana Romanova.  Played by Ursula Andress and Daniela Bianchi respectively, they were likewise deemed too pedestrian for this production, and so the new Bond Girl would be played by Honor Blackman.  Well-known to British audiences as Kathy Gale, the first female member of The Avengers, a serious brawler who predated Mrs. Peel by a number of years, the name of this capable young lady would be the sensible, down-to-earth "Pussy Galore," a name that still holds the undisputed championship for female names in the Bond franchise.  In fairness, it was the 60s; you could only subject a woman to this today in a porn movie!  If Oddjob is Goldfinger's right hand, Miss Galore is his left, at least until the legenary power of the Bond Wiener brings her back to the light in the course of a single application.  Without her turning, Goldfinger's plan succeeds, and he kills at least 60,000 people in the course of carrying it out.

          The movie also takes the spy gadgetry provided by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) over the top with the infamous Aston Martin DB5 and its equally infamous ejection seat, but that's a minor point compared to the rest of it.

          Sean Connery would play Bond three more times (four, if you count Never Say Never Again) in Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever, and while the plots were as wild as Goldfinger's, the Ridiculous was dialed down a little.  Leaving out the deliberate spoof Casino Royale (1966), we saw George Lazenby take a turn in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and none of these movies was particularly bad, being fun action rides through adventures at the edge.  In fact, Lazenby's Secret Service marked a return to the almost-serious, but Lazenby had made it clear that he would only play Bond once.  Roger Moore was brought in to take his turn as the secret agent, and it was Katie-bar-the-door after that!

          So, Goldfinger . . .  How was it?  Hokey as all hell, especially if you're binge-watching in order and you've just finished From Russia with Love, but it's a fun ride for all of the hokum, and an important piece of the canon if you're a younger viewer who missed the origins and are curious about how 007 got to where he is today.  This was the moment when the whole notion of "serious" spy movies was left in the wake, and every film became a contest to outdo the last.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Bond franchise, but I also see it for what it is, a fantasy world based on espionage.  It is also one of the most fun franchises ever devised, and my advice is to jump in with both feet, hang on tight, and enjoy the ride, because whatever else he, in all his incarnations might do, he will never, ever disappoint!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Family Reunion

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life."

           I've always tried to imbue my children and grandchildren with a sense of fun, excitement, and just general enjoyment of life.  There have been times when I've wondered how much success I was really having with that, but here, you be the judge . . .

          It began a couple of weeks ago.  Our younger twin who lives in Colorado texted his mom that he was sending her a package, that he had put a tracker on it, and he would advise her when it was delivered so that we wouldn't leave it sitting outside.  He mentioned it a couple more times, then early last week told her that it would arrive Friday.  Late Friday morning, he texted her that it was being delivered.  I went out to collect it and there he stood with two of his children.

          Seems his wife had some family business to attend to in the area and he had accompanied her with the kids.  He had Friday and Sunday to himself, and would be with us both days.  This was a wonderful surprise, and his keeping this a secret since October, when planning began for their trip, is a pretty impressive feat in itself.  Friday was spent catching up on years of separation, and when he returned Sunday a whole other plan was in play.  See, two of his brother's kids, Kris and Venus, were born in February, 14th and 19th respectively, and we had long-planned a joint birthday party for Sunday, when he returned with all three of his young'uns and joined the party.

          We had and carried out plans to take some group photos as the evening wound down.  We only had one camera with a timer so that we could all be in it, and unfortunately, the kids had been playing with it and run the battery down during the day.  This meant that it only had power for one timed photo.  We would have tried a few more shots and chosen the most perfect, but that was off the table.  Luckily, the one we were able to get was serviceable, though I couldn't even crop it because we could barely get the camera back far enough to get everyone.  Nonetheless, we're very happy to have the whole extended family in one shot.

          Down in front are Dude the Insane Beagle, Brian Jr. (the oldest), and Anna (Alex's oldest).
          Around the back, L to R, are yours truly, Angel (Brian's 3rd) holding Comet the chihuahua, Venus (Brian's 2nd), Kris (Brian's youngest), Sidra (our youngest) Alex Jr. (Alex's 2nd) Alex (our second), Brian (our oldest), Bonnie, the matriarch peeking around Maddie (Alex's youngest), who the camera barely caught.

          It was a tight fit, and we would have liked to have had some choices, but we're thrilled to have this one, and to have had two wonderful, unexpected days with our extended family.  The kids played games, both board and video, and the old folks chatted into the wee hours remembering cherished tales of yore.  There's really nothing to compare with this, and we wish them all a safe drive home when they roll out for Colorado tomorrow.  This is what life's all about.

          And what's the point of this post?  Not much, just an exuberant "yahoo!" in celebration of us all still being around to gather in love once more.  It was, as you might imagine, a wonderful weekend; I sincerely hope things are going as well for all of you.  Wishing you all the best life has to offer, and a reminder to get out there and live life like you mean it!

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Medusa Ritual

The Office of Unidentified Phenomena

          In The Medusa Ritual by C.W. Hawes, Dr. Rafe Bardon, director of the uber-secret US Office of Unidentified Phenomena, sends his best agent, Pierce Mostyn, to retrieve a book of deadly arcane knowledge before its owner can use the tome to unleash a reign of terror upon America and the world.

          C.W, Hawes, prolific author in several genres, has begun serializing, free of charge, his latest novel on his website.  The Medusa Ritual is a story of the investigation of paranormal occurrences rife with mystery, danger, action, and the unexpected.  This is a magnificent value, a full size, nothing-held-back sample of the author's work.  His hope that you will like it enough to climb aboard for the series, but whether that happens or not, you will come away at the end of the process with a complete novel sure to be worth every bit of the price!  I have known Christopher for a while, I have read his work, I have reviewed him on Amazon.  I wouldn't steer you wrong; this is an author of quality who won't disappoint.  Three installments in at this writing, he has already begun to weave an inescapable web of intrigue and terror.  The thrilling adventure begins here; don't be left behind!