Wednesday, July 31, 2019

War of the Robots

War of the Robots is a 1978 Italian science fiction film. It stars nobody you've ever heard of. Tedious, but I'm running out of science fiction movies that are freely available online.

Million Monkey Theater calls it "indescribably heinous" and has screenshots and an extensive plot description. You could just skim that page and save yourself from actually watching the movie. 1,000 Misspent Hours gives it negative stars and says it's "boring and exhausted-seeming, even though it’s as crazy and incomprehensible as anything comparable from the 1960’s".

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Still Life with Coffee Pot

Still Life with Coffee Pot (1888):

by Vincent Van Gogh, who died on July 29, 1890, at 37 years of age, from an infection following a suicide attempt.

I won't be able to join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday gathering today and am not linking up this week, but it's in full swing over at the Altered Book Lover blog. Share a post with a drink in it and join them.


ATCs (with the inspiration prompt listed -but not linked lest I offend- before each image):



The word "you":

We're all...:


Spirit of Bleubeard:





Random (not from a prompt):

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Mad Planet

The Mad Planet is a 1920 science fiction story by Murray Leinster, a prolific and influential writer with a career spanning 6 decades. I remember when he died in 1975 at 78 years of age. You can read this story online here and have it read to you at Librivox. It begins,
In All His lifetime of perhaps twenty years, it had never occurred to Burl to wonder what his grandfather had thought about his surroundings. The grandfather had come to an untimely end in a rather unpleasant fashion which Burl remembered vaguely as a succession of screams coming more and more faintly to his ears while he was being carried away at the top speed of which his mother was capable.

Burl had rarely or never thought of the old gentleman since. Surely he had never wondered in the abstract of what his great grandfather thought, and most surely of all, there never entered his head such a purely hypothetical question as the one of what his many-times-great-grandfather—say of the year 1920—would have thought of the scene in which Burl found himself.

He was treading cautiously over a brownish carpet of fungus growth, creeping furtively toward the stream which he knew by the generic title of "water." It was the only water he knew. Towering far above his head, three man-heights high, great toadstools hid the grayish sky from his sight. Clinging to the foot-thick stalks of the toadstools were still other fungi, parasites upon the growth that had once been parasites themselves.

Burl himself was a slender young man wearing a single garment twisted about his waist, made from the wing-fabric of a great moth the members of his tribe had slain as it emerged from its cocoon. His skin was fair, without a trace of sunburn. In all his lifetime he had never seen the sun, though the sky was rarely hidden from view save by the giant fungi which, with monster cabbages, were the only growing things he knew. Clouds usually spread overhead, and when they did not, the perpetual haze made the sun but an indefinitely brighter part of the sky, never a sharply edged ball of fire. Fantastic mosses, misshapen fungus growths, colossal molds and yeasts, were the essential parts of the landscape through which he moved.

Once as he had dodged through the forest of huge toadstools, his shoulder touched a cream-colored stalk, giving the whole fungus a tiny shock. Instantly, from the umbrella-like mass of pulp overhead, a fine and impalpable powder fell upon him like snow. It was the season when the toadstools sent out their spores, or seeds, and they had been dropped upon him at the first sign of disturbance.

Furtive as he was, he paused to brush them from his head and hair. They were deadly poison, as he knew well.

Burl would have been a curious sight to a man of the twentieth century. His skin was pink, like that of a child, and there was but little hair upon his body. Even that on top of his head was soft and downy. His chest was larger than his forefathers' had been, and his ears seemed almost capable of independent movement, to catch threatening sounds from any direction. His eyes, large and blue, possessed pupils which could dilate to extreme size, allowing him to see in almost complete darkness.

He was the result of the thirty thousand years' attempt of the human race to adapt itself to the change that had begun in the latter half of the twentieth century.

At about that time, civilization had been high, and apparently secure. Mankind had reached a permanent agreement among itself, and all men had equal opportunities to education and leisure. Machinery did most of the labor of the world, and men were only required to supervise its operation. All men were well-fed, all men were well-educated, and it seemed that until the end of time the earth would be the abode of a community of comfortable human beings, pursuing their studies and diversions, their illusions and their truths. Peace, quietness, privacy, freedom were universal.

Then, just when men were congratulating themselves that the Golden Age had come again, it was observed that the planet seemed ill at ease. Fissures opened slowly in the crust, and carbonic acid gas—the carbon dioxide of chemists—began to pour out into the atmosphere. That gas had long been known to be present in the air, and was considered necessary to plant life. Most of the plants of the world took the gas and absorbed its carbon into themselves, releasing the oxygen for use again.

Scientists had calculated that a great deal of the earth's increased fertility was due to the larger quantities of carbon dioxide released by the activities of man in burning his coal and petroleum. Because of those views, for some years no great alarm was caused by the continuous exhalation from the world's interior.

Constantly, however, the volume increased.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Mad Max: Fury Road

I don't understand why this movie isn't in my blog. I saw it in the theater when it first came out and have seen it several times since, but I can't find the post anywhere.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2015 award-winning post-apocalyptic action film starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, the latest in a series that began back in 1979. I've enjoyed them all and enjoyed this one. You can jump in now. Please don't feel like you must see the others first. Of course if you have seen the others, so much the better.


Rolling Stone gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars, calls it "breathtaking" and says, "get prepped for a new action classic. You won’t know what hit you." BFI calls it "a hammer-down, cast-iron-plated, diesel-exhaust-belching manifesto on the physics of screen action". Slant Magazine gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Vanity Fair says it "thrills like something we’ve never seen before."

The Atlantic concludes, " Mad Max: Fury Road is that rarest of indulgences, a blockbuster-season release that fully delivers on its promise. This is vital action filmmaking, a wash of sensation almost primal in its intensity and utterly devoid of the mopey self-seriousness that is so much in vogue these days. May you stay mad forever, Max." Slate has a positive review and closes by saying, "it’s impossible not to appreciate the septuagenarian Miller’s boundless energy and investment in a film franchise that’s older by a few decades than many of its most enthusiastic audience members are likely to be."

SlashFilm says,
One word captures Miller’s action staging: clarity. Fury Road has some of the clearest action direction I’ve seen in any film. There’s never a point in where I was at a loss for where characters were, what they were moving toward, and how the many intersecting paths lead to important collisions. Major and minor characters are tracked through the constantly-moving chaos, and Miller, cinematographer John Seale, and editor Margaret Sixel juggle them all without dropping a single one.
Variety says,
“Mad Max: Fury Road” never feels even remotely cynical — or exploitative. There’s nothing but tenderness in the fiercely protective manner with which Furiosa and the five wives regard one another, or in the key supporting role of Nux (a wonderful Nicholas Hoult), an eagerly aggressive young war boy whose dramatic shift in perspective takes the story in an unexpectedly poignant, and romantic, direction. As for Max himself, he remains a thin, tenuous figure at best — less a fleshed-out character than an avatar of revenge and survival — which is precisely what has made him such a durably iconic creation over the years.
Roger Ebert's site gives it 4 out of 4 stars and closes with this:
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is an action film about redemption and revolution. ... “Fury Road” would be remarkable enough as a pure technical accomplishment —a film that laughs in the face of blockbuster CGI orgies with some of the best editing and sound design the genre has ever seen— and yet Miller reaches for something greater than technical prowess.
Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and says, "Imagine a movie where Tom Hardy is the point of calm. Max’s re-enfranchisement is a triumph of barking-mad imagination, jaw-dropping action, crackpot humour, and acting in the face of a hurricane." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics consensus of 97%.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Traces of Crime

painting of the gold diggings, by Edward Roper

Traces of Crime by Mary Fortune is an 1865 Australian detective story told from the detective's point of view. I find it fascinating for several reasons, and it's quite readable still. You can read it online here. It begins,

There are many who recollect full well the rush at Chinaman's Flat. It was in the height of its prosperity that an assault was committed upon a female of a character so diabolical in itself, as to have aroused the utmost anxiety in the public as well as in the police, to punish the perpetrator thereof.

The case was placed in my hands, and as it presented difficulties so great as to appear to an ordinary observer almost insurmountable, the overcoming of which was likely to gain approbation in the proper quarter, I gladly accepted the task.

I had little to go upon at first. One dark night, in a tent in the very centre of a crowded thoroughfare, a female had been preparing to retire to rest, her husband being in the habit of remaining at the public-house until a late hour, when a man with a crêpe mask—who must have gained an earlier entrance—seized her, and in the prosecution of a criminal offence, had injured and abused the unfortunate woman so much that her life was despaired of. Although there was a light burning at the time, the woman was barely able to describe his general appearance; he appeared to her like a German, had no whiskers, fair hair, was low in stature, and stoutly built.

With one important exception, that was all the information she was able to give me on the subject. The exception, however, was a good deal to a detective, and I hoped might prove an invaluable aid to me. During the struggle she had torn the arm of the flannel shirt he wore, and was under a decided impression that upon the upper part of the criminal's arm there was a small anchor and heart tattooed.

Now, I was well aware that in this colony to find a man with a tattooed arm was an everyday affair, especially on the diggings, where, I dare say, there is scarcely a person with who has not come in contact more than once or twice with half a dozen men tattooed in the style I speak of—the anchor or heart, or both, being a favourite figure with those "gentlemen" who are in favour of branding. However, the clue was worth something, and even without its aid, not more than a couple of weeks had elapsed when, with the assistance of the local police, I had traced a man bearing in appearance a general resemblance to the man who had committed the offence, to a digging about seven miles from Chinaman's Flat.

Friday, July 26, 2019


Head is the 1968 Monkees movie. It's long past time to take another look at this, as two of the four Monkees have died.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Big Mama Thornton

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1984 of Big Mama Thornton, perhaps best known as the original singer of Hound Dog:

She also wrote Ball and Chain in 1968 and was the first to record it:

She died at age 57, found by medical personnel in a Los Angeles boarding house of heart and liver disease due to longstanding alcohol abuse.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew is a 1929 film adaptation of Shakespeare's play. This stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. It is the first sound film adaptation of this play and Pickford's second sound film.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Still Life with Oranges

Still Life with Oranges (1954):

by John Bratby, an English painter who died on July 20, 1992, of a heart attack at the age of 64. Wikipedia calls him the founder of Kitchen Sink Realism.

You can see other examples of his work here and here. The New York Times has an obituary here.

Please join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering by sharing a post with a drink in it.


ATCs (with the inspiration prompt named above each image):










One Corner:

Random (not from a prompt):

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Quiet Place in the Country

A Quiet Place in the Country is an award-winning 1968 French/Italian giallo thriller starring Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave. The music is by Ennio Morricone, which is reason enough to watch any film. Is he haunted? Or insane? Is this a ghost story? Or is it psychological horror?

It is based on the short story The Beckoning Fair One by George Oliver Onions, which I posted about here.

Senses of Cinema says,
the director uses the familiar tropes of the giallo to ask uncomfortable questions of modern society. While in his earlier film Petri probes into what he sees as the empty values of young wealthy bourgeois, in A Quiet Place in the Country he examines the role of the artist; the inescapable dichotomy between art and commerce.
DVD Talk calls it a "Brilliant psychological/supernatural horror movie" and concludes with this:
Disturbing, sensational aural/visual experience. Writer/director Elio Petri creates a completely unstable environment for his tale of personal madness, artistic chaos, and supernatural violence. Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero are beautiful to look at here. One of a kind. On content alone, I'm giving A Quiet Place in the Country our highest rating here at DVDTalk

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Monday or Tuesday

Monday or Tuesday is a 1921 short story by Virginia Woolf. You can read it, it's quite short, online here or here:
Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect –the sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers, for ever and ever–

Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever desiring –(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike divergently. Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)– for ever desiring –(the clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is mid-day; light sheds gold scales; children swarm)– for ever desiring truth. Red is the dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark, shout, cry "Iron for sale" –and truth?

Radiating to a point men's feet and women's feet, black or gold-encrusted –(This foggy weather –Sugar? No, thank you– The commonwealth of the future)– the firelight darting and making the room red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass preserves fur coats–

Flaunted, leaf-light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels, silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled –and truth?

Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate. Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparks– or now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian seas, while space rushes blue and stars glint –truth? or now, content with closeness?

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then bares them.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Riding Shotgun

Riding Shotgun is a 1954 Randolph Scott western. It's a good, traditional western, and I'd certainly recommend it if you like those like I do. I saw it on television.


TCM has information.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Night Came Slowly

Kate Chopin

The Night Came Slowly is an 1895 short story by Kate Chopin. You can read it online here or -since it is so short- below:
I am losing my interest in human beings; in the significance of their lives and their actions. Some one has said it is better to study one man than ten books. I want neither books nor men; they make me suffer. Can one of them talk to me like the night – the Summer night? Like the stars or the caressing wind?

The night came slowly, softly, as I lay out there under the maple tree. It came creeping, creeping stealthily out of the valley, thinking I did not notice. And the outlines of trees and foliage nearby blended in one black mass and the night came stealing out from them, too, and from the east and west, until the only light was in the sky, filtering through the maple leaves and a star looking down through every cranny.

The night is solemn and it means mystery.

Human shapes flitted by like intangible things. Some stole up like little mice to peep at me. I did not mind. My whole being was abandoned to the soothing and penetrating charm of the night.

The katydids began their slumber song: they are at it yet. How wise they are. They do not chatter like people. They tell me only: “sleep, sleep, sleep.” The wind rippled the maple leaves like little warm love thrills.

Why do fools cumber the Earth! It was a man’s voice that broke the necromancer’s spell. A man came to-day with his “Bible Class.” He is detestable with his red cheeks and bold eyes and coarse manner and speech. What does he know of Christ? Shall I ask a young fool who was born yesterday and will die tomorrow to tell me things of Christ? I would rather ask the stars: they have seen him.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Old Lady And The Pigeons

The Old Lady And The Pigeons is an award-winning 1997 short film about a starving policeman who disguises himself as a pigeon so the woman at the park will feed him. Sylvain Chomet is the director, and his films are always worth looking for.

Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 90%.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Putnam Tradition

The Putnam Tradition is a 1963 short story by Sonya Dorman. You can read it online here. It begins,
It was an old house not far from the coast, and had descended generation by generation to the women of the Putnam family. Progress literally went by it: a new four-lane highway had been built two hundred yards from the ancient lilacs at the doorstep. Long before that, in the time of Cecily Putnam's husband, power lines had been run in, and now on cold nights the telephone wires sounded like a concert of cellos, while inside with a sound like the breaking of beetles, the grandmother Cecily moved through the walls in the grooves of tradition.

Simone Putnam, her granddaughter; Nina Putnam, her great-granddaughter; the unbroken succession of matriarchs continued, but times the old woman thought that in Simone it was weakened, and she looked at the four-year-old Nina askance, waiting, waiting, for some good sign.

Sometimes one of the Putnam women had given birth to a son, who grew sickly and died, or less often, grew healthy and fled. The husbands were usually strangers to the land, the house, and the women, and spent a lifetime with the long-lived Putnam wives, and died, leaving their strange signs: telephone wires, electric lights, water pumps, brass plumbing.

Sam Harris came and married Simone, bringing with him an invasion of washer, dryer, toaster, mixer, coffeemaster, until the current poured through the walls of the house with more vigor than the blood in the old woman's veins.

"You don't approve of him," Simone said to her grandmother.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Love from a Stranger (1937)

Love from a Stranger is a 1937 film adaptation of a play which was in turn an adaptation of an Agatha Christie short story. Starring Ann Harding and Basil Rathbone, the actors do a great job of playing out the roles in this suspense thriller.

Watch it via the Internet Archive (The sound's a bit fuzzy, but I couldn't find a cleaner one.):

I'll offer this as my "in" to the weekly T Stand for Tuesday blogger gathering where we share a reference to a beverage and visit one another:

On learning her dear friend has won thousands of pounds in a sweepstakes:

"I'll go make a cup of tea."

to which her friend pulls a bottle out of a bag and says,

"Tea?! Champagne!"

In the screenshot above they are laughing and crying with joy and excitement as they uncork the bottle. What a sweet moment.

ClassicHorror concludes,
Running for 84 minutes, this smoothly acted suspense drama is unfortunately one of Rathbone's frequently overlooked performances, despite that fact that he is superbly effective as the insane murderer. The quick-fire editing, atmospheric photography and Britten's good music score, particularly during the latter stages, is an additional bonus, but it is Rathbone's performance alone that makes this film most enjoyable.
Agatha Christie Reader calls it "a wry, well-conceived psychological thriller which proves that –even 75 years on– movies haven’t really changed." TCM has information.








Here Comes the Sun:





Random (not from a prompt):