Brazzaville — The Sequel to Casablanca That Was Never Made

Monday, April 27th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

CasablancaPoster1Now, I think that Casablanca is the greatest movie ever. I’ve seen it far more times than any other movie, and I rarely pass up a chance to sit down and watch it again when TCM runs it. I had never seen a Humphrey Bogart movie until my early twenties. Then, I went to the Ohio Theater, an amazing place on the National  Register of Historic Places, to see Casablanca on a HUGE screen. There was even organ music during the intermission. I was hooked for life and I now own almost every movie Bogart appeared in. I’m a virtual Cliff Claven of Casablanca trivia, and I’ve even written two short stories centered around the movie.

Frederick Stephani was a screenwriter who had penned the first Flash Gordon movie that Buster Crabbe starred in. He also did the screenplay for Johnny Holiday, a hardboiled movie starring William Bendix. After the success of Casablanca, Warners had him write a treatment for a sequel, working title Brazzaville – after the Free French garrison that Renault suggests he and Rick visit as they walk away from the airport at the close of the film.


Rick and Renault drive to Rick’s Cafe to find some unhappy Germans waiting for them. The Germans demand that Renault either arrest Rick, or turn him over to them. Rick says he’d rather be arrested. I can see Bogart wryly saying that. Renault smiles and looks at his watch; it’s 6:00.

He asks his aide, presumably Lt. Casselle, how long it takes to get a cable to, and a response from, Vichy. He is told, ‘six hours.’ He asks the Germans what charge is to be made against Rick. That’s reminiscent of him telling Strasser he has no reason to shut down the cafe in Casablanca. The Germans tell him some trumped up charges. Unlike the incident with Strasser, he stands up to them. He explains that Casablanca is still a free territory and they need to substantiate their charges. He adds that anyone can prefer charges, but if they can’t be proven, it will cause trouble for Renault.

The Germans, knowing that Renault is with Vichy, are confident, but don’t see the wink that he gives Rick. Rick then levels some made up charges against them! Rains decides he likes Rick’s charges better and arrests the Germans. They are furious and threaten vengeance. Renault offers to let them use the cables to contact Vichy to complain (Nobody plays cool and urbane like Claude Rains). Bogart is bemused.

Later, in Rains’ office, Bogart tries to find out what Louis is up to, but Renault puts him off and tells him to concentrate on their chess games. Renault is unconcerned by his very unhappy German prisoners.

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Goth Chick News: Beetlejuice Gets a Documentary and It’s Everything We Ever Wanted

Thursday, April 16th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Beetlejuice Goth Chick

In an attempt to not succumb to the stresses of working above ground near windows, rather than in the cozy, underground bunker of the Black Gate offices, I have been systematically making a list of my favorite movies. I am then ranking them in watch order, with a view to not overindulge in too much of a single genre. I do know people who have done Friday the 13th or Halloween marathons during the lockdown, but most of them are on the verge of not being suitable to ever be in public again. Therefore, my movie list, though heavy on the horror, still runs the gambit from hardcore to light-hearted fun; from Evil Dead to High Spirits and a whole lot in between.

But any list I compile, regardless of how it is organized, would have Beettlejuice right up there near the top. Yes, I’m partial to Tim Burton on most days, but the ghost with the most is nothing short of a classic.

Hard to believe that it’s been just over 33 years since Michael Keaton offered to chew on a dog to get the hapless, recently deceased Maitlands to hire him to scare the living out of their charming, New England farmhouse. The movie, also starring Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin and Winona Ryder among others, earned close to $75 million at the box office, which is roughly five times its $15 million budget, and bagged an Oscar for costume and makeup. Since then, Halloween costumes, pop-up bars and museum exhibits have paid homage to this comedy-fantasy-horror flick to the point you’d think it would have all been done.

Thankfully, we’re wrong.

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These Violent Delights: HBOs Westworld

Saturday, April 11th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


I don’t often find a lot I enjoy on TV. There are notable exceptions. I loved Battlestar Galactica and Sons of Anarchy, enjoyed a few seasons of Game of Thrones, Justified and Banshee, and dabble in Star Trek: Discovery.

A few years ago though, I was absolutely blown away by the first season of Westworld. Physical distancing has given me a bit of extra time and in Canada Westworld is on Crave premium, so I rewatched season one, blew through Season Two and found to my delight that new episodes of Season Three are appearing weekly.

What is it and why am I talking about it on Black Gate? It’s probably the most scientifically faithful science fiction I’ve ever seen on TV or the big screen, and yet it has the powerful literary and narrative qualities you’d expect in an HBO series. There is no hand-holding here for the viewer and no clumsy exposition. It’s keep up or go home all the way — the series treats you like you’re smart enough to keep up, which really means that Westworld has enough depth of character and story to leave you turning it over in your mind for quite some time.

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Nineteen 1950’s SF Movies To Help Get You Through the Next Few Weeks

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller


Caltiki, The Immortal Monster

Let’s face it, most of us are going to be stuck at home for the next couple of months and although we all probably have a lot of reading to catch up on, ennui is inevitably going to set in sooner or later. Fortunately, we are living in the golden ago of home video and there’s a lot out there to explore. Here’s a list of what I (generally) consider the best science films of the 1950s, not limited to those made in America, but  also those shown in America. The ratings are on a 10+ to 1 scale (no “1’s” on this list) and all are readily available, with eBay being a great source of affordable entertainment you can own and not just rent, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see that many of these are also on streaming services for those who eschew physical ownership.

19. Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959: 8+): An Italian production filmed in Mexico. Accounts vary, but it is the first film at least partially directed by Mario Bava, who also did the moodily atmospheric cinematography. The story opens with archaeologists investigating Mayan ruins where they comes across a blob-like monster which they ultimately destroy, but save a bit in a small, glass-topped aquarium (never a good idea) and bring back to Mexico City. Also, something about a comet. Sub-genre: Blob movies.

18. Fly, The (1958: 8+): A decent effort, even it does devolve into “there are things that man is not meant to know” territory. Two weak spots are the cat’s audible meows after being sent off somewhere (and I didn’t like the family pet being used as an experimental animal) and the fact that the guy who gets the fly head retains human intelligence. Vincent Price does a nice turn as the scientist’s brother. Way less grotty than the remake. Sub-genre: science gone wrong.

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Lindbergher, Slightly Overdone: The Plot Against America, Part 3

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 | Posted by James Enge


I don’t know, man. It seemed like something that could not possibly fail. A brilliantly weird memoir-novel by one of America’s great writers, a timely subject, the team of writer-producers who created The Wire (one of television’s greatest shows), a gifted cast, high production values, a network known for sponsoring bold and innovative work. And yet…

No, this isn’t about the only-in-my-dreams TV adaptation of The Wolf Age. It’s the ongoing HBO adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America that’s making me sad.

I’m not here to tell you that it’s a disaster, because it’s not. In every episode so far (see here for my assessment of episode 1, and here for my wise words on episode 2) there has been great stuff. One example: young Philip’s nightmare at the beginning of this week’s episode when all the faces on his precious stamps turn into Hitler. It’s horrible — the thing that must not happen, and yet seems to be happening no matter what anyone does to stop it. In a few seconds, without a word spoken, it expresses what the show (not to mention its source-novel) is about.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The ‘Lost’ 1959 Pilot

Monday, March 30th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Only a few years ago, the ‘lost’ pilot of a 1959 Nero Wolfe television show came out on DVD. Surprisingly, no one posted it on YouTube until March of 2020, while much of America was staying at home during the Corona virus Pandemic. I myself saw it for the first time on March 22, so here we go!

Back in 1959, Edward Fadiman, part of Fadmian Productions, (which also acted for Rex Stout as ‘Nero Wolfe Attractions’), got a pilot episode made through CBS. Unfortunately, it was fated to be a one-episode series (or was it?). TV was still an emerging medium, competing with radio, the silver screen, and the stage. It’s no surprise that the project turned to Broadway for the dual leads. And in this episode, Archie’s star shines at least as brightly as Wolfe’s.

Kurt Kasznar appeared in one episode of a lot of TV shows, which was common in the fifties and sixties. He was a successful stage actor, including roles in The Sound of Music, and Barefoot in the Park. When notices about the pilot project began appearing in early 1959, he was appearing in Look After Lulu. At 280 pounds, he had the build for Wolfe. The press reported that he actually had lost 70 pounds and needed padding for the part! William Shatner was appearing on Broadway in The World of Suzi Wong. He was years away from boldly going where no man had gone before.

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Dracula in Espanol? Si!

Sunday, March 29th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller


Hello. Since this is my first blog post for Black Gate, I feel that an introduction is in order. My name is John Miller and I am a writer. My name is a both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it is short and simple and easy to remember, a curse because it’s common and as easy to forget as it is to remember. I have written under the name of J. J. Miller (only when I was young, and somewhat under the influence of E. E. Smith), as John J. Miller, and, finally, as John Jos. Miller, when I had to differentiate myself from the other John J. Millers of the world. (Also, as simply John Miller, but only for my technical archeological reports and papers. You can try to track down “Resource Allocation Strategies on the Navajo Reservation in the Early Twentieth Century,” but good luck in finding it.) I’ve been told that I probably should use a pseudonym (I did write one novel under a pseudonym, but that was not my choice.), but I am stubborn and bad at self promotion and John Miller is my name (along with tens of thousands of other Americans) and I’m sticking with it.

I read a lot of stuff and watch a lot of stuff and like to share my opinion of what I like and don’t like. Who doesn’t? I have my prejudices, which I will admit up front. I don’t like torture porn or most slasher movies. I don’t like most modern Rom Coms. I don’t like movies where the whole point is that the characters are stupid. Dumb and Dumber? I don’t think so. (Once I actually paid money to see an Adam Sandler movie and I’ve regretted that ever since.) I really don’t like movies where they shoot the dog. (The exception that proves this point is John Wick. I’ve seen it three or four times, but not the scene where they kill the dog. Sometime I’ll have to tell you about the discussion I had with George R.R. Martin as to why Old Yeller is a terrible children’s movie.)

Rating movies under a five star system is insufficient, even if you cheat by halving the stars. I use a modified IMBD 10-1 system, but to add a soupcon of nuance, I use a “plus,” so my scale actually runs from 10+ to 1.

I almost always finish everything, book, novel, or movie, that I start. Thing is, I’m willing to take the bullet so you don’t have to. That’s what I’m here for, but mainly I like to share things I like, so let’s get down to it already.

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Let’s Do Something Awful: Part 2 of HBO’s The Plot Against America

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 | Posted by James Enge


I hate putting swastikas in front of people, but it’s more or less unavoidable here

There continues to be a lot to like in this show. (See here for my thoughts on the premiere.) In the last moments of the second episode, the show’s history branched significantly away from ours, as Lindbergh was elected president on his Isolationist platform. But the show remains grounded in a patiently constructed, vivid reality — it’s not one of these awkward historical drams where people rant paragraphs of exposition at each other. This is about recognizable human lives. It’s a big deal when Bess Levin (Zoe Kazan’s character) gets a job for instance. And dad gets mad at the radio a lot — but there’s no question which thing young Philip is more worried about.

And it’s not an unfaithful representation of the book. Storylines are compressed and events are re-ordered to fit the constraints of a six episode series, but there are big stretches of dialogue that come, word for word, from the book. And they work on screen, because Roth (unlike many a novelist) knew how people talk. And, also, because the actors (especially Morgan Spector and Anthony Boyle) sell the lines convincingly. Arguments in TV shows are usually a recipe for boredom. (“WHY WON’T YOU LET ME LOVE YOU?” “I DON’T KNOW HOW!” etc. etc. until the commercial break.) But these work.

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Star Trek: Discovery: A Quick Dive Into the New Face of the Franchise

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 | Posted by Adrian Simmons


Review’s Log, Stardate 2020.3.18

It’s not how I would have done it.

Honestly, any review/criticism of a beloved franchise that doesn’t begin with those eight words is committing a significant lie of omission. Indeed, I feel that all future reviews should be required to begin with those words, or the INHIWHDI acronym. Consider it a new Prime Directive for our wounded age.

Reviewer’s Log, Supplemental

Timing is everything, and Star Trek: Discovery (ST:D) really drew the short end of the stick on this one. When I got CBS All Access I didn’t know it was all access. As in the entire CBS backlog. Original Series Trek, Next Generation Trek, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the Animated Series from ’74.

It is not ST:D’s fault that I dove right into the Animated Series (ST:TAS) as soon as I realized I had it. And ST:TAS was just as weird/cool/funky as you would think it was. It was also delightfully subversive and progressive. Uhuru commands the Enterprise twice. Is there even a live-action Trek that has a black woman in the big chair? Chapel solves The Problem once and solves The Other Problem once. Also, Kzinti.

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Goth Chick News: Universal Takes Up Its Dark Universe Again (insert facepalm here)

Thursday, March 19th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Dracua Tom Cruise Goth Chick-small

A few weeks ago I shared the news that Universal Studios was adding to its theme park property with a new attraction called Epic Universe. That park would be made up of four ‘lands’, one of which will be dedicated to Universal’s classic monster characters. In my euphoria, I completely overlooked the inevitable truth that there was no way Universal was going hope the classic monster fans would make this new investment successful. No, they would have to try to attract a new generation of monster movie fans. They would have to modernize. Forget they blew it a couple of times already. The time is now to breathe life back into…

The Dark Universe.


If you haven’t been keeping score, this marketing idea was pretty much left for dead after the real-life horror that was the 2017 ‘modernization’ of The Mummy, starring (and I use that word in the absolute broadest sense) Tom Cruise.

This, of course, was the second death of Dark Universe, which quietly imploded the first time with the 2014 retelling of Dracula in Dracula Untold. Never heard of it? Of course not. But as Douglas Adams famously reminded us, it will be the marketing people who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes. Until then, they’re just banging away.

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