A Brief Guide to Space Race Movies

Monday, June 29th, 2015 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Apollo 13 poster-smallYou could sweat the details, but it’s probably safe to say that the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union lasted nearly 12 years. The Soviets kicked it off on October 4, 1957 with the launch of the little satellite that could, the one known as Sputnik. The Americans fell behind on nearly every front in those early years but then grabbed the brass ring on July 21, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

Nowadays, four decades after humans last walked on the moon, space exploration fails to stir the public imagination like it once did. Ticker tape parades for astronauts are a thing of the past, and Canadian Chris Hadfield is arguably the closest thing to a “celebrity” astronaut to come along in decades.

But it was not always thus. If you’d like a fictional perspective on how things were in the pioneering days of space flight, you could do worse than to check out the six movies listed below.

Marooned (1969)

Marooned seems to have slipped into something like obscurity in the nearly half a century since it was made. It’s a movie that concerns an Apollo-like mission which runs into difficulties that prevent them from re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Thus, they are marooned in orbit around Earth with a limited supply of oxygen.

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Goth Chick News: 31 Shades of Malcolm McDowell

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

31 A Rob Zombie Film-smallYou know how some people talk about seeing something that scarred them for life?

I mean really scarred – like way worse than any episode of My Strange Addiction, or “casual Friday” in the Black Gate offices in July.

This happened for me in my early teens when during a sleepover, my friend snagged her Dad’s secret, “unrated” copy of Malcolm McDowell in Caligula.

Though I’ve seen things since that could be categorized as “more disturbing,” nothing has come close to those vomit-inducing scenes burned into my 14 year old retinas.

Of course, as you probably guessed, in the coming years I got seriously busy seeking out every bit of cinema that McDowell had ever done and eventually found my way to Cat People and A Clockwork Orange. If you only know McDowell from Star Trek or Entourage, you definitely need to check out his earlier work.

It takes a special talent evoke an audience’s gag reflex with that much panache.

So it really came as no surprise that today, Rob Zombie’s Facebook page made the following announcement.

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Is the Grail a Force For Evil? Understanding Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

Indiana_Jones_and_the_Last_Crusade_A

What better quest story to unpick than this classic Indy adventure?

The Holy Grail – purportedly the last cup that Christ drank from, echo of the zombie-making Cauldron of Rebirth – is it actually a force for evil?

Until the 20th century, its main fictional outing was in the King Arthur cycle when its effect on the Round Table is akin to introducing the knights to crack-cocaine: the fellowship scatters, those who achieve the quest – the best knights – go straight to Heaven (read, die), Lancelot gets badly injured, and Britain ends up littered with the graves of knights who would be more useful protecting the realm from the King’s enemies.

Then we come to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I’m looking at Pulp and Pulp-inspired stores because I’m working on a retro-Space Opera, provisional title “The Eternal Dome of the Unknowable” (Sarah, this is ALL your fault). What better quest story to unpack than this classic Indy adventure?

What I found is rather odd.

Here’s the plot — I’ve added story questions in the form Question Answer But Now

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: On Screen Before Norwood

Monday, June 15th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

PreTwentiesGillette1Screen depictions of the great detective have been a staple topic here at The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes. And because you assuredly read this post (actually, you might have: this has turned out to be my most popular PloSH post. I think it’s an error in the counting macro, but I’ll take it!), you know that in 1921 Eille Norwood and Stoll Films began their very popular series of Holmes silent films.

So today, we’ll look at the pre-Twenties career of Holmes in films.

There had been plays featuring Sherlock Holmes in 1893 and 1894. Then, William Gillette made his lasting debut as Holmes in his own play in 1898. Which you know since you read this post (I’m awfully self-assured people read this column, aren’t I?).

The restored Gillette film was screened in San Francisco the first week of June and will be available on DVD this Fall (I don’t plan on paying $34.95 for a copy, myself. I’ll wait until the price comes down.).

Then, in 1900, we saw the first appearance of Holmes in the fledgling media of film.

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The Camera Can Lie: FairyTale: A True Story

Monday, June 8th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Cottingley FairiesNews flash: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, having created literature’s greatest rationalist in the form of Sherlock Holmes, spent his later years heavily invested in the occult, the supernatural, and the possible existence of (yes) fairies.

Of course, people have always evinced a desire to believe — sometimes in this, sometimes in that — and so it is perhaps not so surprising that Conan Doyle played a large role in one of history’s great photographic deceptions, that of the so-called Cottingley Fairies.

In fact, he was one of those most willing to champion the trumped-up, cheap-looking fakes (black and white stills of young girls posing in shrubbery with paper cut-outs of highly Romanticized winged fairies) His role in this debacle (the girls only recanted decades later) is the subject of a FairyTale: A True Story (1997), a film well worth revisiting given our drone-happy, GPS-driven, target-rich world.

You see where I’m going with this, yes? Given our present era of photo manipulation and computer generated graphics, our collective ability to dupe the unwary has never been greater, and just like statistics, images lie.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Looking at The Bruce Partington Plans

Monday, June 8th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BruceP_FDSSolar Pons is, of course, the next best thing to Sherlock Holmes (which you know because you read THIS post, right?). I’m a Pons fan and I run www.SolarPons.com, the only website dedicated to The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.

Along with my two free, electronic newsletters (The Solar Pons Gazette and Baker Street Essays), the heart of the site is a collection of (non-spoiler) case commentaries for August Derleth’s stories. Some day, it will also host commentaries for the Basil Copper pastiches.

One of the many projects on my ‘To Do’ list (which might as well be Wish list) is to write case commentaries for the sixty Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve done one (woohoo!!!). First, if you haven’t done so, you really, really, really (I mean, really) need to read “The Bruce Partington Plans.” It’s a short story; won’t take long. And the rest of this post will actually mean something to you.

Each case commentary includes a non-spoiler preview of the story, some notable quotes, and a plethora of miscellaneous observations and comments. I’m probably in the minority, but I think there is some good stuff below and you’ll know a bit more about the story after you read it. So, come, the game is afoot!

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Goth Chick News: Sometimes There Just Are No Words…

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

If you can’t remember the last time you were left slack-jawed and speechless then get ready.

Today is your day.

Steve Ramsdan is a London based filmmaker, editor and all around “behind the camera” sort of genius. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of him until today, when I looked up his IMBD profile after someone sent me this.

Apparently he admired how Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick framed their shots in a similar way, and just got to wondering, “What if..?”

Go ahead – take a look…

Well? Do you agree? Genius?

Post a comment or drop a line to sue@blackgate.com, which goes for all of you except those who CAN remember the last time they were left slack-jawed and speechless – we really don’t need those details (you know who you are).


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Magnifying Glass, Pipe and Deerstalker

Monday, June 1st, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Pipe_RathboneThe curved pipe. The magnifying glass. The deerstalker cap. These three objects are intimately associated with the enduring image of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was quite astute to use these rather uncommon devices for his singularly uncommon detective.

Well, not quite. In addition to Doyle, we should also credit three other men for creating the picture we see of Sherlock Holmes, over a century later.

Along with Doyle, we must tip our deerstalker (and puff on our pipe in honor of) illustrators Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele, a well as the great stage performer, William Gillette.

It is the contributions of the latter three upon which Eille Norwood, Arthur Wontner, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and others based their portrayals. Of course, since Rathbone’s Universal films were set in the 1940’s, his wardrobe was contemporary to the times. But his two films for Twentieth-Century Fox fit the classic image.

Let’s take a look at three “props” that have been commonly associated with Holmes for over a century.

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Goth Chick News: World War Z Rages On…

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

World War Z poster-smallIt definitely would have been a very good scoop to have landed back at C2E2. Then again, I might have been too busy having a fan girl swoon to have caught on anyway.

Earlier this month I had the chance to chat with Max Brooks, author of one of my favorite novels, World War Z. At the time I pressed him as much as I dared on the topic of a sequel as it seemed to be a rather touchy subject. Brooks stated he’d do it when the spirit moved him to and not a moment before.

This week I learned two things – first, something has definitely moved Brooks, and second, a possible reason why the topic of a follow up story might have been a tad touchy at the time I asked about it.

Paramount Pictures has just set a release date for the sequel to World War Z, effectively ending speculation, and Max Brooks is on board as one of the writers.

Granted, we’ve been hearing rumors about this for some time. In spite of the original production being plagued by so many problems it came close to being scrapped, World War Z ultimately became a blockbuster hit ($540M worldwide) and is in fact considered the highest grossing film in Brad Pitt’s career.

As Pitt not only starred in but produced the original film via his Plan B production company, it seemed inevitable that Paramount would green light a follow up at some point.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: TCM’s Summer of Darkness

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

TCM_LogoHard boiled and noir are often discussed together. And while a film or story could fit in both categories, they are two distinct genres. Hard boiled is typified by the stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and others from Black Mask and Dime Detective magazines.

Noir is usually (but not always) thought of in terms of film: black and white, shadowy movies with dark characters. Much hard boiled is noir, and vice versa. Far more expert folks have discussed the definitions of the two terms for decades.

One example, to me, are the works of Cornell Woolrich, whose “It Had to Be Murder” became the masterful suspense flick, Rear Window. Woolrich’s stories are noir, but not hard boiled.

Many of Humphrey Bogart’s films were hard boiled, including The Maltese Falcon (also noir), The Roaring Twenties and Bullets or Ballots. One of his later films, In a Lonely Place (based on the novel by Dorothy Hughes) is a noir classic but isn’t hard boiled.

So, just know that many films (usually crime related) from the thirties through the fifties and into the sixties, were hard boiled, noir, or both.

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