Another Bad Movie

Number 18 in the Series

I feel sure Earl Derr Biggers never wrote a story titled Dangerous Money, but here is the movie from 1946 and featuring British actor Sidney Tolar in the role as Chines detective Charlie Chan. To be sure, this is from Monogram Pictures, which produced 11 of these with Toler.

Details are from Wikipedia. Here is the cast of characters:

  • Sidney Toler as Charlie Chan
  • Victor Sen Yung as Jimmy Chan
  • Joseph Crehan as Captain Black
  • Willie Best as Chattanooga Brown
  • John Harmon as Freddie Kirk
  • Bruce Edwards as Harold Mayfair
  • Dick Elliott as P.T. Burke
  • Joseph Allen as George Brace, the Purser
  • Gloria Warren as Rona Simmonds, an English tourist with a crush on the purser George Brace
  • Rick Vallin as Tao Erickson
  • Amira Moustafa as Laura Erickson, Tao’s wife
  • Tristram Coffin as Scott Pearson
  • Selmer Jackson as Ship’s Doctor
  • Dudley Dickerson as Big Ben
  • Rito Punay as Pete the Steward
  • Emmett Vogan as Professor Martin
  • Elaine Lange as Cynthia Martin, the professor’s wife
  • Leslie Denison as missionary, Reverend Whipple (alias for Theodore M. Lane)
  • Alan Douglas as Joe Murdock, man posing as Mrs. Whipple

And you should pay attention to that listing. It tells a lot about the story. The story begins aboard a passenger liner steaming from Honolulu to American Samoa. This is the year following the defeat of the Japanese Empire, which had made a task of seizing and occupying these and other Western Pacific islands. We see an agent of the Treasury Department, Pearson, fidgeting, waiting on the deck of the fog-bound vessel. Eventually Chan arrives, and the two converse. Pearson tells Chan he is heading to Samoa to investigate reports of a large amount of illicit American currency. He tells Chan there have been two attempts on his life while he was on the ship.

As they talk, hands of an unseen person sever a line, supposedly holding up something heavy.

Chan shoves Pearson aside as the heavy object crushes the railing where the two had been standing. Chan suggests it will be safer to talk in the lounge, where a show is in progress. We see a knife thrower impressing patrons with his skill.

But there is another knife thrower.

Pearson slumps over dead at the table, a knife in his back. Chan begins the investigation.

Everybody in the lounge is required to remain while Chan does some interviews.

Meanwhile, Chan has brought his son Jimmy and his chauffeur, Brown, along on the trip. They are destined eventually for Australia. As standard for Charlie Chan movies, the son and the chauffeur play amateur detectives. Here they attempt to trick the ship’s doctor into thinking Brown is sick, all to obtain the doctor’s fingerprints. The ruse doesn’t work.

Brown investigates further, culminating in a meeting with the ship’s cook in the galley.

Somebody is throwing knives and killing people on board the ship. Charlie wants to trap the thrower. Jimmy and Brown watch as Chan sets up a ruse.

Evil eyes peer through the blinds. He thinks he sees his target. At this point we do not know the identity of the phantom knife thrower, but this assures us he is not a young and beautiful blond.

The knife comes through the slit in the blinds and strikes the imitation Chan has set up in the chair. Foiled again. Chan had expected the knifer would first open the door and reveal himself.

Pete, the steward, is involved with Burke in a scheme to blackmail Rona. She and George Brace, the ship’s purser, are lovers. Brace has arranged for her to travel to Samoa using false papers. Her object is to recover artwork secluded during the war.

Dealings between Pete and Burke grow sour after Burke makes threats. As the ship comes withing swimming distance of anchorage, Pete jumps overboard and heads for shore. A shipmate witnesses this and throws a life ring and gives the alarm.

Amazon Video’s X-Ray feature gives viewers a heads up. When ship’s officers arrive, the life ring is still in its place on the bulkhead.

Ashore, Rona hands over a valuable necklace of hers to keep Burke quite.

Burke’s glory is short-lived. While the ship’s captain and Chan question Burke, a knife comes through the thin window shade and strikes him in the neck.

Jimmy and Brown continue their investigation. In the museum they discover artifacts stuffed with American bills. They also discover the art works Rona is seeking.

There is this, which appears twice in the movie. It’s a turtle with a light fastened to its back. This plays no part in the plot, but there it is. And the spot of light does not line up with the device’s pointing direction.

The bad guys horn in.

But Chan, the Captain and Jimmy and Brown counterattack. There is a pitched battle inside the building. Chan fires his pistol. The knifer fires knife blades from a spring-loaded launcher. They consistently miss and stick in the wooden crate.

The captain detains the knifer, Mrs. Whipple, who turns out to be a man.

This was Sidney Toler’s next to last movie role.

By the end of 1946, age and illness were affecting Toler. Diagnosed with cancer, the 72-year-old Toler was so ill during the filming of Dangerous Money (1946) and Shadows over Chinatown(1946) that he could hardly walk. Monogram hired Toler’s original foil, “Number Two Son” Victor Sen Yung, for Toler’s last three films, quite probably to ease the burden on Toler. Toler mustered enough strength to complete his last film, The Trap, which was filmed in July–August 1946 and released in November that same year. (Yung and Moreland relieved Toler of much of the action in The Trap). Toler’s Monogram output matched his Fox output: 11 films for each studio.

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Wednesday Bad Movie

Number 18 of a series

Never heard of this before ten years ago. Found a discount book store and purchased three titles for $1.00 each. One was Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery. That was interesting. It’s based on the first really great train robbery, in England in 1855, and it was some kind of robbery, making for a solid movie plot, which Crichton also wrote, also directed. The movie came out in 1978, and I caught it streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is the principal cast:

  • Sean Connery as Edward Pierce
  • Donald Sutherland as Agar
  • Lesley-Anne Down as Miriam
    Alan Webb as Trent
  • Malcolm Terris as Henry Fowler
  • Robert Lang as Sharp
  • Michael Elphick as Burgess
  • Wayne Sleep as Clean Willy
  • Pamela Salem as Emily Trent
  • Gabrielle Lloyd as Elizabeth Trent
  • George Downing as Barlow
  • James Cossins as Harranby
  • André Morell as Judge
  • Peter Benson as Station Master
  • Janine Duvitski as Maggie
  • Peter Butterworth as Putnam

The plot follows more or less the book’s narrative, and a few excerpts will help with the explaining.

It is difficult, after the passage of more than a century, to understand the extent to which the train robbery of 1855 shocked the sensibilities of Victorian England. At first glance, the crime hardly seems noteworthy. The sum of money stolen—£12,000 in gold bullion—was large, but not unprecedented; there had been a dozen more lucrative robberies in the same period. And the meticulous organization and planning of the crime, involving many people and extending over a year, was similarly not unusual. All major crimes at the mid-century called for a high degree of preparation and coordination.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Here is the opening scene:

As the train clattered down the track on its way to the coast, the sliding door of the luggage van opened suddenly, revealing a desperate struggle inside. The contest was most unevenly matched: a slender youth in tattered clothing, striking out against a burly, blue-uniformed railway guard.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (p. 3). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The gentleman climbed the hill, pressed binoculars to his eyes, and swept the length of the tracks. Immediately he fixed on the body of the prostrate youth. But the gentleman made no attempt to approach him, or to aid him in any way. On the contrary, he remained standing on the hill until he was certain the lad was dead. Only then did he turn aside, climb into his waiting coach, and drive back in the direction he had come, northward toward London.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (pp. 4-5). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The French and the British were battling the Russians in Crimea at this time, and the Brits paid their men in gold. Regular gold shipments went out, leaving London by train to the port. Shipments amounted to £12,000 each, and that was a wad of money in those days. The shipper took elaborate precautions to safeguard the cargo. The gold left the treasury by armed coach, unannounced and by unplanned routes. They loaded the gold onto the baggage car of the train, where resided two hefty safes of hardened steel. Opening required four keys simultaneously, and separate men kept their separate copies.

We see Edward Pierce, hobnobbing with London society, working his way into the lives of those with access to the keys.

This singular gentleman was Edward Pierce, and for a man destined to become so notorious that Queen Victoria herself expressed a desire to meet him—or, barring that, to attend his hanging—he remains an oddly mysterious figure. In appearance, Pierce was a tall, handsome man in his early thirties who wore a full red beard in the fashion that had recently become popular, particularly among government employees. In his speech, manner, and dress he seemed to be a gentleman, and well-to-do; he was apparently very charming, and possessed of “a captivating address.” He himself claimed to be an orphan of Midlands gentry, to have attended Winchester and then Cambridge. He was a familiar figure in many London social circles and counted among his acquaintances Ministers, Members of Parliament, foreign ambassadors, bankers, and others of substantial standing. Although a bachelor, he maintained a house at No. 19 Curzon Street, in a fashionable part of London. But he spent much of the year traveling, and was said to have visited not only the Continent but New York as well.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (pp. 6-7). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

But Pierce needed accomplices. He needed a man good with his hands. On the street he studied the activities of one such.

Robert Agar—a known screwsman, or specialist in keys and safe-breaking—testified in court that when he met Edward Pierce in late May, 1854, he had not seen him for two years previously. Agar was twenty-six years old, and in fair health except for a bad cough, the legacy of his years as a child working for a match manufacturer in Wharf Road, Bethnal Green. The premises of the firm were poorly ventilated, and the white vapor of phosphorous filled the air at all times. Phosphorous was known to be poisonous, but there were plenty of people eager to work at any job, even one that might cause a person’s lungs to decay, or his jaw to rot off—sometimes in a matter of months.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (p. 10). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I had to watch this a second time through to catch it. The two men in front have an accident of sorts, and while attention zeros onto them, Agar picks the lady’s pocket.

From time to time he would also require a woman to do what women do. Here he is with Miriam.

First the gang needs to acquire copies of the four keys. They carry wax blocks and set about getting access to each key, making an impression and leaving the key in place. Miriam creates a distraction by stopping at a target house. When the butler goes out the front door to see what the lady in the carriage wants, Pierce and Agar sneak in and search the wine cellar, where it has been learned the occupant keeps one of the keys.

It is learned another key keeper has a weakness for the ladies. Miriam poses as a woman of low repute and meets the gentleman at a house of low repute. There will be no action until the key comes off his neck. A hand comes from behind a curtain and plucks the key. As if by miracle, there are sounds of a police raid, and the gentleman hustles out the back door with his clothing and his copy of the (copied) key.

The remaining two keys are kept in the train station office, up a flight of stairs, windows exposing everything that goes on. They need someone who can scale the outside wall and unlock the station office from the inside. Clean Willy is the man, but he is in prison. The scheduled hanging of an ax murderer provides the distraction, and Willy defeats the notorious prison wall.

And much of the rest goes well, for a while. At night the station security guard has his scheduled dinner with his scheduled beer, followed by his scheduled 70-second beer relief. Agar uses the 70-second opening to bound up the stairs, enter the unlocked door, find and copy the two keys, and escape.

Willy’s job is done, but he makes a fatal mistake. Instead of lying low he returns to work and is caught by the police attempting to lift a purse. Willy does not want to return to prison, and he pleas for leniency in exchange for information. He arranges to meet Pierce while the police watch, but Pierce escapes. Too late. A copper has had a look at Pierce.

Willy’s remaining time is short. He takes a labyrinthine  route, through dim alleys, across roof tops, in and out of numerous buildings to arrive at a safe place. Once there he starts to relax.

He walked to the end of the street, and then turned in to the entrance of another lodging house. Immediately he knew that something was wrong; normally there were children yelling and scrambling all over the stairs, but now the entrance and stairs were deserted and silent. He paused at the doorway, and was just about to turn and flee when a rope snaked out and twisted around his neck, yanking him into a dark corner.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (p. 221). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Here Crichton changes the plot a bit. Watching, I saw only bare hands around Willy’s throat.

But now the police know something is up, and it has to do with the railway. It’s the gold shipment. The shipping company strengthens security. The baggage car will have a lock on the outside. Any package capable of containing a person must be inspected. What are you going to do, Mr. Pierce?

Agar appeared unconvinced. “Say you put me on in some trunk. He’s bound he’ll open it and have a see, and there I am. What then?”

“I intend for him to open it and see you,” Pierce said.

“You intend?”

“I think so, and it will go smoothly enough, if you can take a bit of odor.”

“What manner of odor?”

“The smell of a dead dog, or cat,” Pierce said. “Dead some days. Do you think you can manage that?”

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (p. 260). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So Agar plays dead in a coffin, and this dear woman (Miriam) wants to ship him in the baggage car. Here is what’s funny. During a period of time there arose the fear of being mistaken for dead and buried alive. People would arrange to have a bell attached to their coffin, so if they awoke and found themselves about to be buried alive, they could ring the bell, and people would open the coffin and welcome them back from the afterlife.

Of course the inspectors are going to want to open the coffin, but Agar rings the bell just to be sure. Miriam is ecstatic. He is alive. Open the coffin. They do, and there lies sweet Agar, dead of cholera, cholera! And smelling of days-old dead cat. The coffin is quickly closed and loaded onto the baggage car.

Now Pierce needs to unlock the baggage car from the outside of a moving train. For this he brings along a piece of rope. The baggage car guard has been bribed. After all, he was locked inside all the time. He obviously had nothing to do with this business. We see Pierce leaving his train compartment and making his way four cars back on the moving train. He drops ends of the rope through vents on top of the baggage car, and Agar and the guard apply tension to keep Pierce steady while he picks the lock.

Inside the car, Pierce, Agar, and the guard exchange the gold for lead. At the appropriate point they open the door and toss the gold to waiting accomplices. Pierce is now covered in soot, so he takes Agar’s outer clothing and returns to his compartment, locking the baggage car behind him.

But at the station he is recognized among the crowd and arrested. He is put on trial and cheerfully confesses to the crime. He makes no apologies. He did it for the money. So it’s off to prison for Pierce.

Not quite. Outside the prison van waits, but driven by an accomplice. Pierce is by now an admired hero—the man who stole the most guarded shipment of gold from a moving train. Adoring fans mob him as he exits the courtroom, one of these fans being Miriam, who slips him a key to the handcuffs.

Pierce kicks his guards off the van and makes his escape, waving to the crowd. This is a variation on the book.

It is presumed that this whore was actually the actress Miss Miriam, and that in kissing Pierce she passed him the key to the handcuffs, but that is not known for certain What is known is that when the two van guards, coshed into insensibility, were later discovered in a gutter near Bow Street, they could not reconstruct the precise details of Pierce’s escape. The only thing they agreed upon was the appearance of the driver—a tough brute of a man, they said, with an ugly white scar across his forehead.

The police van was later recovered in a field in Hampstead. Neither Pierce nor the driver was ever apprehended. Journalistic accounts of the escape are vague, and all mention that the authorities showed reluctance to discuss it at length.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery (pp. 357-358). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What’s not to like about this movie? From Wikipedia:

Sean Connery performed most of his own stunts in the film, including the extended sequence on top of the moving train. The train was composed of J-15 class 0-6-0 No 184 of 1880, with its wheels and side rods covered and roof removed, leaving only spectacle plate for protection to give it a look more akin to the 1850s and coaches that were made for the film from modern railway flat wagons. Connery was told that the train would travel at only 20 miles per hour during his time on top of the cars. However, the train crew used an inaccurate means of judging the train’s speed. The train was actually doing speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour. Connery wore soft rubber soled shoes and the roofs of the carriages were covered with a sandy, gritty surface. Connery actually slipped and nearly fell off the train during one jump between two carriages, and had difficulty keeping his eyes free of smoke and cinders from the locomotive.

Besides, that, Crichton’s story is a fabrication loosely based on actual events:

Finally, on 15 May 1855, Tester met Agar at the station, and told him it was “all right”. Agar and Pierce drove to the station dressed as gentlemen and bought first-class tickets for Folkestone. They gave their carpet bags of lead shot to a porter, who in turn gave them to the guard, Burgess, who put them in his van. Agar boarded the guard’s van with Burgess, while Pierce got into a first-class carriage.

As soon as the train began to move, Agar opened the safe and found the three bullion boxes. He removed the iron bands from one of the boxes using a mallet and chisel, took out the gold bars and substituted lead shot, then replaced the bands and replaced the box’s wax seal with a wax taper and an ordinary seal.

It had been arranged beforehand that when the train halted at Redhill Tester should relieve Agar and Pierce of a share of the gold and at that station a bar of gold was placed in a black bag which Tester had brought. In the confusion of the train stopping and starting off again, Pierce got into the van with Agar and Burgess and when it had set off again they opened up a second box. The third and final box contained small bars of Californian gold. Pierce and Agar could not take all of this but took a large portion of it, substituting lead shot as before.

In this instance, reality is more interesting than the movie:

When the boxes were taken out of the safes at Boulogne and weighed, it was discovered that one weighed 40 lb (18 kg) less than it should have, while the other two each weighed a little more. Despite this discrepancy, the boxes were transferred to a train for Paris. Upon arrival in Paris they were weighed again and when they were opened, it was discovered that lead shot had been substituted for the gold. It was clear that the robbery had not taken place between Paris and Boulogne due to the weights corresponding.

Crichton notes in the book the remarkable period in England this was. The first railroads began operation in 1830, and England was never the same after.

In September, 1830, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened and began the revolution. In the first year of operation, the number of railway passengers carried between these two cities was twice the number that had traveled the previous year by coach. By 1838, more than 600,000 people were carried annually on the line—a figure greater than the total population of either Liverpool or Manchester at that time.

Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Railroads altered British life with unprecedented swiftness, and the first train robbery of such magnitude caused this crime to be labeled the crime of the century. A few years before Crichton wrote the book there was another crime of the century in England.

The Great Train Robbery was the robbery of £2.6 million from a Royal Mail train heading from Glasgow to Londonon the West Coast Main Line in the early hours of 8 August 1963, at Bridego Railway Bridge, Ledburn, near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire, England.

Eat your heart out, O.J.

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Another Bad Movie

Number 17 in the Series

I posted the screen shots weeks ago with the intention of filling in the story. Events intervened, so here is the story.

This is the 1983 movie based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Sign of Four. It’s interesting to compare the movie, streaming on Amazon Prime Video,  to the original story. I will do some of that. Details are from Wikipedia, which lists the principal players.

The movie opens with Major Sholto receiving a mysterious message, tacked to the door of his upscale abode and brought to him at dinner by the butler. The original story begins with Watson observing as Holmes shoots up with cocaine, a notorious habit of his. Then the lovely Miss Morstan comes calling.

I had opened my mouth to reply to this tirade, when with a crisp knock our landlady entered, bearing a card upon the brass salver. “A young lady for you, sir,” she said, addressing my companion. “Miss Mary Morstan,” he read. “Hum! I have no recollection of the name. Ask the young lady to step up, Mrs. Hudson. Don’t go, doctor. I should prefer that you remain.”

Doyle, Arthur Conan; Books, Maplewood. Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection . Maplewood Books. Kindle Edition.

The message Major Sholto receives is shocking, almost fatally. It is something from his dark past, and he will never recover. See it below. It’s the diagram of a building in India where a vast treasure was hidden, and which Major Sholto stole, leaving others to rot in prison. This is a story of revenge.

The wooden-legged Jonathan Small spent years in prison in the Andaman Islands after giving up the location to Sholto and a Captain Morstan. Now Mr. Small intends to regain the stolen treasure and inflict some payback on Major Sholto.

Miss Morstan seeks help from Holmes to locate her father, who came to London and has not since been heard from.

The Sholto brothers discuss the strange message and the actions of their father.

Meanwhile, Small is assisted by an Andaman Islander named Tonga (John Pedrick), who helped him escape from the prison island. The two break into the Sholto house, seeking the treasure. Major Sholto dies (apparent of fright).

Miss Morstan is in possession of The Great Mogul, the second largest such diamond in existence. The stone features in the story, but it is mentioned only in Small’s recounting of discovering it when he and his compatriots stole the fortune in gems.

Holmes, Watson, and Miss Morstan pay a call on Thaddeus Sholto, who embraces Indian culture.

More encounters. Tonga kills Bartholomew with a poison dart, and Small takes the jewels. Only, the Mogul is missing. Small continues hie quest. Holmes and Watson investigate the murder of Bartholomew

They note the odd footprints of a small person (Tonga) and a man with a wooden leg (Small). Holmes hires a tracking dog, and Holmes and Watson set off to follow the suspects.

This leads them to a boat for hire place. Small has hired the boat for his escape. The boatman’s wife unloads a wad of detail when questioned expertly.

The boat is gone, so Holmes needs to track it down. He engages his band of street ruffians, called The Baker Street Irregulars. They begin to scour the shores of the Thames for the boat, which does not appear to be moored anywhere.

Of course, the boat is not moored. It’s in a repair yard for refitting.

Miss Morstan pays a call on Thaddeus about the time Small and Tonga come around. Tonga kills the footman with a poison dart, and Small threatens Thaddeus for the location of the Mogul. When Thaddeus discloses the Mogul was sold, Small kills him.

Miss Morstan flees to the farthest reaches of the house, pursued by Tonga with his blowpipe.

Holmes and Watson arrive to save Miss Morstan, and Small attempts his escape on the hired boat.

But Holmes has engaged a high-speed police cruiser to chase down the two miscreants. Tonga attempts to kill Watson with a poison dart, but Watson, (ex army doctor), is ready with his pistol, and that’s the end of the islander.

The jewels are nowhere to be found, but Holmes figures they are hidden in Small’s hollow leg.

The jewels go to the police, but Miss Morstan gets to keep the mogul.

All this time Miss Morstan and Dr. Watson have been eyeing each other. Now a marriage is planned.

In the original story the gems are never recovered (bottom of the Thames). After a brief mention, the Mogul never appears in the original.

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Wednesday Bad Movie

Number 17 of a series

This one is outside my usual base for movie reviews, since it was never a theatrical release. It’s Willed to Kill from 2012 (some say 2013). It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and you may want a warm-up in case you decide to view it. Quit reading to avoid the big spoiler. Wikipedia has no entry for it, so I’m getting details from IMDb. Here are some of the cast:

  • Sarah Jane Morris    …         Karyn Mitchell
  • Michael Riley …         Doctor Aaron Kade
  • Dylan Bruce   …         Mark Hanson
  • David McIlwraith      …         Lieutenant Schneider
  • Ross McCall   …         Gavin McNaab
  • Joey Klein      …         Floyd

The story is all about police detective Karyn Mitchell. She has some kind of reputation. The opening scene sees her approaching an old house (this is Boston). We hear music inside. We hear not screaming. The lights are on. She appears to pick the lock before entering.

She searches through the house. In the kitchen is a table, and some clothing store mannequins are sitting around in various forms of dress. This is strange.

A man emerges from a connecting door. He is holding a large knife. Mitchell addresses him by name and orders him to put down the knife. He does not comply but continues to approach with the knife. She shoots him dead.

And that adds to Mitchell’s reputation. She has tracked down three serial killers, and she has killed all three. And she tells her supervisor she heard screaming inside the house before entering.

Now we meet the standard police hunt movie character, the obnoxious, in-your-face news reporter. He is Floyd, and he wants information for a story. He has additional stuff about Mitchell, which he won’t share, and he taunts her. We have seen this before in Manhunter. These characters almost never come to a good end. This movie will be no exception.

She is required to see the police shrink. Killing three serial killers should/ought to have psychological repercussions. He is Doctor Kade. We have seen this character before. He is the overly solicitous police shrink. We soon grow suspicious.

Mitchell and her partner, Gavin McNaab, investigate a murder.  Mitchell has a hunch. She unbuttons the victim’s shirt. The murderer has carved a design on it. It’s the same design inflicted by the notorious Hades serial killer of years past.

Eventually we will learn the Hades killer was Mitchell’s father, and she, as a young girl, was the one who turned him in to the police. He was executed. That’s the information Floyd has been taunting her with.

We learn more about Mitchell’s partner, McNaab. He arrives at the murder scene straight from his bachelor party, smelling of liquor and cigar smoke, and shedding lap dancer glitter.

In a previous time Mitchell and McNaab were engaged, but she broke it off a few days before the wedding, because he had been screwing around. Now she wakes up and finds him coming into her bedroom. He still has a key. They discuss.

There are more killings. Somebody is recapping the Hades killer. All the victims appear to be people who need killing. One is particularly obnoxious. Mitchell and McNaab visit people who had business with the victim. One is a business that sells high-end audio-video home entertainment. They talk to the two men running the place, and both agree, they were eager to finish the job and cut loose from the jerk.

Surprise. Mitchell is leaving the gym after her workout, and she encounters Dylan Bruce, one of the home entertainment guys they had questioned. He recognizes her, and stops her to talk.

A few hours later.

So McNaab is again engaged to be married, and he has invited Mitchell to the wedding. He tells her she can bring a date. Now she has a date, but there will be no wedding. McNaab notices something in the pile of evidence they collected, and he arranges to meet Mitchell at their favorite bar. He brings along a file folder.

McNaab is sitting at the bar when the bartender tells him he hears his auto alarm going off. McNaab goes out to check and finds a window smashed. A man approaches from behind. The two scuffle, and the man stabs McNaab and takes the folder. Mitchell comes to the bar looking for McNaab and is directed outside. She finds him dying. He tries to tell her something, but we can’t make out what he’s saying.

Sometime in all this the Hades killer kills Floyd.

Mitchell continues to investigate, and suspicion points to her new boyfriend. She pulls her weapon and arrests him. This will put the chill on any romance.

But suspicion next shifts to Bruce’s partner, and when Mitchell and her new partner go to investigate they find him an apparent suicide with a pistol in his hand.

All right, enough of that. She now figures out it was the shrink all along. As a young girl, Mitchell began to suspect her father as the Hades killer, but she didn’t tell the police. Then more people were killed, and she went to the police.

Two of those killed were the doctor’s parents, and he blames Mitchell. Now she confronts him in a parking garage, and once again she has her weapon pointed at a serial killer.

He bolts, taking the elevator to the tenth floor. She charges up the stairs, and there is a fierce battle on the roof. He grabs her, and he’s going to throw her off the roof, making it look like suicide.

She outwits him. One hand reaches behind her and retrieves her handcuffs. She clamps one on his wrist and the other on hers. He says that’s fair enough, both of them will die tonight. He goes over the edge, expecting to drag her with him.

But he lands on the concrete below with the pair still shackled to one wrist, but with the other shackle open. Mitchell has out-foxed the killer, making it four in a row she has dispatched.

Mitchell and her boyfriend decide that a confrontation involving a loaded pistol should not be the end of a beautiful romance.

A lot of the plot is trite. A police detective killing serial killers one after the other. The partner once engaged to the woman, but now preparing to marry another woman. The obnoxious reporter playing it too close to the fire and getting burned. The distraught child growing up to become a police psychologist in order to take revenge on a woman who made a mistake as a young girl. Girl meets boy, girl sleeps with boy, girl arrests boy, girl and boy make up. Almost Cinderella.

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Another Bad Movie

Number 16 in the Series

Actually, what happened is I was getting ready for something else, and I watched a few bad movies, collecting screen shots with the idea of writing them up later. Now I need to write something for this.

This is The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes., which appears to be the 1935 production written up for Wikipedia. Here are the principal players:

I promise a complete writeup next week when I can get back to my computer.





















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Take the last train from Strasbourg…

And I’ll meet you at the station.

Yeah, I don’t think those are the actual words. Nevertheless, on Monday we went to Strasbourg, and we took the train. It’s maybe 40 miles as the crow flies from Freiburg in Germany to Strasbourg in France, but if the crow needs to take a train, then the way to get to Strasbourg from Freiburg is to take a couple of trains. The first train is nothing to write home about, but the other train is something else.

You get off your Freiburg train at the Offenburg station, look around, and there’s your train to Strasbourg. Yes, there it is, shown here parked at its stopping place in Strasbourg. It’s a two-car diesel contraption that runs every thirty minutes, apparently two trains running opposing shuttle schedules. The shuttle train’s stature in the world of trains hierarchy is underwritten by its parking space, a piece of track that ends in a clump of weeds at the far end of the Strasbourg station. It takes thirty minutes to make the 15-mile run, occasionally making stops to drop off and pick up passengers at isolated platforms out in the boondocks.

Anyhow, you do know when you have arrived at Strasbourg.

You need to take your camera, because photo shoots come early and fast. Fast once you get past the inevitable McDonald’s across the street from the station. Here is what is likely Notre Dame du Strasbourg.

Hey! Strasbourg really is a tourist destination. In the square around the cathedral you quickly spot the standard tour train.

The first thing we wanted to find was some kind of tourist information center, and we followed the signs. We were about to give up on our search when we looked up. There it was.

Strasbourg is on the Rhine, the border with Germany, but that still does not explain the network of waterways that lace part of the old town. It all makes for some great photo opportunities.

We found a walkway along one of these water sites, and I got this shot of Barbara Jean transiting a tunnel beneath a city street.

Tourist boats make a living along these water routes.

People live here. Imagine waking up each morning and having this for your front view.

And dining, as well. Barbara Jean finds something she likes on a menu.

And the dining is laid back and rewarding. But, want a draft brew, it’s going to be a Heineken.

We went to Canada last month, and workers there were laid to getting in street repairs while the weather held. Much the same seems to be going on in Strasbourg.

More boats, more tourists.

Better view of the cathedral.

Street artists working with chalk.

Barbara was looking for some healthy bread, and she found a place. We finished off the bread two days later.

Back to the Strasbourg station and back on the cross-Rhine shuttle to Offenburg.

Another place we may never see again.

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Wednesday Bad Movie

Number 16 of a series

Little miss Muffet she sat on her tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey.
Along Came a Spider.

If you understand the implications of that, then you have the plot for this movie. It came out in 2001, featuring Morgan Freeman in the lead. It’s based on the book of the same name by James Patterson. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is the principal cast.

The story is the second in Patterson’s series about police detective Alex Cross. The opening shows a police sting operation go awry, and Cross’ partner is killed when a car plummets into what appears to be a dam spillway.

Cross is a long time recovering, blaming himself on his partner’s death. Then comes a crime that will brutally suck him back in. There is a private school for children of the upper-crust. One is Megan Rose, the very young daughter of Senator Rose. The other is Dimitri Starodubov, apparently son of the Russian Ambassador. The presence of the two merits Secret Service protection at the school.

We see Megan and Dimitri passing notes in class via a chat service on their computers. They giggle in delight. Their teacher is Gary Soneji, kindly, bewhiskered, plotting. After class, as other students are preparing to be picked up by parents and chauffeurs, Soneji calls Megan into his office to remonstrate her on a charge of plagiarism. It’s a ruse. He subdues her in preparation to sneak her out of the school. When she doesn’t show for being picked up, others become concerned. One concerned is Secret Service agent Flannigan. An unfortunate teacher goes to Soneji’s office and is strangled by the kindly professor.

Before the body of the teacher can be discovered, Soneji packs Megan into a utility cart, then out the door and into his van. He is gone before the perimeter can be closed. He stashes Megan below on his boat (this is Washington, D.C.) and removes the disguise he has used during his two years at the school. This job has been a long time planning. That’s a critical part of the plot, and a hint at the title.

In retirement and brooding, Cross spends his time building model sailing vessels. A phone call from Soneji stirs him to action. He is instructed to look in his mail box. It’s one of Megan’s shoes.

That gets him into the case. Agent Flannigan is to be sidelined. Cross insists she needs to remain. This is a federal matter, and the feds do not want interference from a local (retired) cop.

Soneji continues to phone Cross. There are no ransom demands. It is unclear what Soneji’s motives are. Discovering steganographic information in a GIF file (or more than one), case workers zero in and identify Soneji. They raid his home. Of course he’s on the boat.

Megan is a piece of work for a kid her age. She starts a fire on the boat and jumps into the water while Soneji is distracted. She swims toward shore, but the only result is that Soneji shoots the fisherman who comes to her rescue.

Watching this through one time I never picked up on the Dimitri connection, but apparently Soneji makes use of the chat connection between Megan and Dimitri to lure the Russian boy out of the secure Embassy compound. Cross and Flannigan anticipate the ruse and go to the Embassy to talk. They are rebuffed, but Flannigan considers they should set a stakeout and watch. It pays off. Dimitri receives messages through the chat channel and sneaks out of the compound, apparently thinking he is communicating with Megan.

Flannigan spots Dimitri in the rain and then Soneji, who has just murdered two D.C. police and taken their car. There is a fierce gun battle, but Soneji gets away, and Russian security guards exit the compound with guns aimed at Cross and Flannigan. Dimitri is unharmed, but that’s the last we see of him in the movie.

I’m guessing Dimitri was Soneji’s original target, and now his scheme has fallen apart. He returns to his boat to dispatch the unfortunate Megan, but she is gone. Where? Nobody knows. Not Soneji, not the fuzz. Something is rotten in the District of Columbia.

Another call comes from Soneji, with a ransom demand. Millions in diamonds in a thermos jug. Cross will deliver it. He chases around D.C. and finally onto a Metro train, where he is commanded to toss the jug out the train window to the man waiting beside the tracks. While the crowd, including Flannigan, crouches low he fires his weapon to shatter the glass. The waiting person picks up the booty.

At Cross’ house, he and Flannigan mull over the turn of events. This has not turned out the way expected. This ransom business is not in Soneji’s character. There is a knock on the door. It’s the police. Not really. It’s Soneji, and when Flannigan answers he stuns her with a taser and confronts Cross.

Cross and Soneji engage in a battle of words, while Flannigan slowly comes about. Then the culmination, as words turn into a deadly duel, and Cross dispatches Soneji with a blast from an antique shotgun. He has killed the only person who knows where Megan is. Or has he?

We see Flannigan meeting up with fellow agent Devine, her partner in the school detail. He has the diamonds, and he also has Megan locked away. Flannigan insists it’s time to kill Megan, but the body must never be found, because Soneji is already dead, and it would be problematic to now pin the murder on him. But that won’t completely resolve the issue. Somebody else needs to die. Flannigan shoots Devine, then she heads to the shed nearby where Megan is stashed.

Megan—smart girl—has barricaded the entrance to her confinement, and Flannigan tries to coax her to open the door. This is your friend, Agent Jezzie Flannigan, come to take you home. But Megan is too smart for that. Where are the others? Why are you alone?

Flannigan is stymied, and she attempts to break into the locked enclosure. That failing, she fires her pistol through the door, but Megan is barricaded behind a mattress and other items. Flannigan gets on top of the enclosure and empties another magazine. By now this must be attracting some kind of attention.

By now Cross has figured the plot. Flannigan and Devine watched Soneji for two years and worked out his scheme. Their plan was to horn in and to make a bundle. Searching records, Cross identifies a rented building, and he goes there to confront, and ultimately to kill Flannigan. He takes Megan home.

Little miss Muffet she sat on her tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey 
Along came a spider who sat down beside her 
And frightened miss Muffet away.

Soneji thought he had a neat scheme working, but along came a spider.

This is one of those plots for which a lot of stuff has to go right—entirely to much stuff.

Flannigan and Devine unraveled Soneji’s scheme as they observed him for months, and they knew he was planning to take Megan to the boat and to hoax Dimitri. They collaborated to ensure the net was not closed too quickly when Soneji made his move to snatch the girl. They counted on too much.

If the unfortunate teacher had raised the alarm upon seeing young Megan on the floor, it would have been all over then.

If Megan’s escape attempt had been successful, it would have been all over then.

While Soneji is away attempting to abduct Dimitri, Devine snatches the girl from the boat. Soneji, finding her missing, goes where? Straight to where Cross and Flannigan are commiserating. How did he know they would be there?

He stuns Flannigan. What if he had used the same pistol he used in the rain-drenched gun battle? It would have been all over at that point for Flannigan.

Things begin to winkle out when Cross decides it’s safe to kill Soneji. Somebody else knows where Megan is.

There is unwarranted melodrama with the disaster episode in the opening scene.

Otherwise, a first class production, well directed by Lee Tamahori.

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