The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Five to One

The Edgar Wallace MysteriesWhat’s the moral of this story? Something about the best laid plans? No, I think it’s the importance of knowing when to quit. Alan Roper is the leader of a gang of small-time crooks, and he is thinking big. We have seen this kind of group dynamic before in the Edgar Wallace film series: a trio of gang members, consisting of a clever leader, his girlfriend, and his somewhat less clever friend. It makes for a fun group of characters, and it works especially well here with three great actors playing the gang members: John Thaw, Brian McDermott and the first ever Avengers girl Ingrid Hafner (largely forgotten by those who remember The Avengers, as most of her episodes are sadly missing). John Thaw was just 21 years old when he starred in this film. He had already done a little bit of television, but this was his first film role apart from one uncredited minor performance. He is immediately brilliant, stealing every scene he is in, and Hafner and Thaw make for a wonderful acting team. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Nightmares

The idea for Nightmares is very simple: bad dreams are becoming real. When that starts happening to everyone, the world eventually descends into chaos. We start with one of the obvious ones, with spiders going for a stroll across random-student-of-the-week Wendell’s face. As soon as he is questioned, and we hear his backstory about his brother carelessly cooking his pet spiders, we realise that the writer is going beyond the obvious scares here, and the fears are tailored to each victim’s phobias or other negative emotions. Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: A World of Difference

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959I don’t recall if I’d seen A World of Difference before, but if I had, it was a very long time ago.  Long enough that I was not working for a company that dedicates a huge portion of its research to the area of mental health.  Now when I watched this episode, what I see is a view of people’s understanding of mental health in 1960 and it’s alarming.  We are introduced to Jerry Reagan, an actor whose life isn’t what he wants it to be.  Luckily for him, he has a break with reality and starts to believe he’s the character he’s playing, Arthur Curtis.  He goes through the episode pleading with his peers to believe him, to accept that he isn’t who everyone thinks he is.  The thing is, he is who they think and it’s Jerry who has lost touch with reality. Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Abbey Grange

I am reasonably certain this story is recreated in the Sherlock Holmes video game, Crimes and Punishment and it’s a good one for it.  This is another example of Holmes operating outside the law.  But as much as I have people in my own life who would argue that he’s in the wrong, it’s a quality I love about Holmes.  I’ve often wondered why some laws are even followed.  Let me quickly qualify that: I made a right turn at a red light on a corner where it’s allowed, but I did it from “the shoulder” and was pulled over and ticketed.  We treated the white line like a demon treats a chalk circle, when in reality, I was helping reduce traffic the way I made the turn.  I questioned the logic of how a white line cost me money and really started pondering the value of some laws.  So when Holmes decides to be judge and jury himself, acknowledging that the law often works only in harsh black and white, I have to say I respect the character immensely.        Continue reading

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Star Trek: The Lights of Zetar

Star Trek Blue LogoI’m torn as I come into the final batch of classic Trek episodes.  On the one hand, Season 3 has been a bit weak by comparison to the rest of the series.  On the other, there are some highlight moments.  I don’t think The Lights of Zetar does anything extraordinary but, like last week’s That Which Survives, we are given another basic adventure.  In so doing, I think I recognized one of the things that is keeping Discovery from greatness.  This episode opens with what appears to be a storm in space.  That storm attacks the Enterprise and gets into the mind of Scotty’s latest love interest, Mira Romaine (also known throughout the episode as “the girl”).  This storm ends up being an entity.  And that made me realize: we don’t have any strange storms or weird events in Discovery largely because the new mode of storytelling is big arcs.  To do a non-arc story these days feels like filler.  Yet now and then we needed that completely weird thing; those Lights of Zetar or that amoeba in The Immunity Syndrome.  I think Trek needs to go back to exploring to really capture the feeling we used to have with this series. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Infernal Machine

breakawaySometimes life kicks you in the head.  The very day I told two people how much I had been enjoying Space: 1999 is the same day that I watched a real stinker!  And it’s sad because within the first minute or so, I was so happy to hear a voice that I knew and loved.  The great Leo McKern is impossible to ignore when you hear that bellowing, mirthful voice.  His laugh is utterly delightful too.  Between him and Brian Blessed a few episodes ago, we’ve had some great voice talent on this series.  But could it be that even McKern could not raise this to a passable episode? Continue reading

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Nekomonogatari (White)

Nekomonogatari White TigerI have previous watched, enjoyed and written about Bakemonogatari, Kizumonogatari, Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari (Black). Next up in the sprawling Monogatari saga is the longest season of all, Monogatari: Second Season. It is a run of 23 episodes, but consists of individual arcs with their own titles. Further complicating matters is Hanamonogatari, which belongs in the middle of this season but was delayed and released on its own. The physical media releases are the individual arcs, and that’s how I’m going to cover this season, starting with the five-episode Nekomonogatari (White). Continue reading

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The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: Accidental Death

The Edgar Wallace MysteriesIf there is one defining feature of the majority of these Edgar Wallace Mysteries B movies, I would have to say it’s the lack of a mystery. They might better have been described as thrillers, although that description often would not have been quite right because there is frequently nobody to root for. This is a typical entry into the series, in that the antagonist and protagonist could both be described as the baddie. I find myself often asking what the point is of these films, when there is no mystery to unravel and no hero. In Accidental Death, for example, the murder does not take place until the closing seconds of the film, so the writer has to find another hook to keep us interested. In this instance, that is the game of cat and mouse between the two main characters, and we can never be quite sure which one is the cat. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Puppet Show

Sunnydale High has a new principal, or as Giles puts it the “new Fuhrer”. It’s immediately obvious that Buffy’s life has been made more difficult by his presence, because this one is paying attention:

“There’s something going on with you. I’ll figure it out, sooner or later.”

Snyder is a very different headmaster to Flutie, and immediately his interest in Buffy’s school record presents a problem for her. The writers also take the opportunity to throw suspicion on him, although it doesn’t last for very long, just that atmospheric moment when Giles sees him lurking around in the darkness backstage. This is well timed, immediately after it has been established that nobody is missing from the power circle, prompting the group to look for an external enemy. It is also a wise move to have some acknowledgement of the weird occurrences and deaths stacking up, as ignoring that would start to feel silly pretty soon: Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959I wonder if viewers of The Twilight Zone of the 1960s felt as I did with the series in 2019.  I could not help but think that Jordan Peele wanted to hit me over the head with a message where I had little memory of one existing from the original series. I think the stories were conceptually better, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the message was just too close to home in the newer series.  But The Monsters are Due on Maple Street is no less over-the-head with its message reminding us of the dangers of prejudice.  Then maybe I should just accept that Peele was actually doing exactly what he should have been doing: making us take stock of ourselves.  In this classic, a neighborhood descends into madness and suspicion after things start going wrong.  And they’re silly things too: a car fails to start, lights go off… but it’s enough to unnerve people.  Coming out of the 1950’s I suppose it was no surprise that we might be questioning one another.  McCarthy and the House of Unamerican Activities made us doubt our neighbors, so Serling just added a dash of sci-fi and turned longtime friends into foes.  I don’t know that I can really say that Peele was doing anything different, could I? Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Musgrave Ritual

I think every kid must love treasure hunts.  Who doesn’t?  Even when I would setup the easter egg hunt for the kids in years past, I’d be excited to offer clues for them to find all of the eggs.  I remember reading this story and loving it.  It’s not the best of the canon but it’s such an enjoyable story.  Yet, watching it now, I realize just how horrible it is for most of the secondary characters.             Continue reading

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Star Trek: That Which Survives

Star Trek Blue LogoThat Which Survives feels like a proper Star Trek romp with a strange planet, a mysterious woman, and a life or death struggle for the crew of the Enterprise.  The truth is, this isn’t a great episode but it’s not a bad one either.  And it’s one of the rare times a previous adventure is referenced.  (That would be Devil in the Dark when Sulu talks about the silicone lifeform of Janus VI.)                     Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – Another Time, Another Place

breakawayPerhaps it should have been evident that we were in for a really eerie episode when the first 4 minutes of this story were utterly devoid of dialogue.  The crew notice something happening which defies any sort of scientific description as far as I can tell, before the moon seems to separate in two… not two parts, but two distinct entities.  Then one woman, Regina (who will be our latest fatality), starts believing two alternate realities at the same time.  She starts getting sunburn while indoors and has thoughts that don’t match reality.  That’s because there are two realities and oddly, she seems to be a part of both. Oh, this one is a weird one alright. Continue reading

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Nisekoi: Season Two

Nisekoi Season Two HaruWhat do we want from a second season of a harem anime? Top of the list would be a resolution to the love triangle, but failing that some character development would be nice. Who am I kidding? In the world of anime that is extraordinarily rare, and instead we are drowning in a sea of stories that get started and never finished. It’s a very simply equation, and Nisekoi is a case in point; the second season was shown in 2015, but the manga on which it is based concluded in 2016. Manga readers have it so much better, because they get to enjoy an ending, but for viewers of the anime it’s a frustratingly incomplete picture. By the end of the season we are really no closer to knowing which girl will end up with Raku than we were at the end of the first. We will almost certainly never get a third season to conclude the story. Continue reading

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The Edgar Wallace Mysteries: The Partner (Review)

The Edgar Wallace MysteriesAny filmed mystery series will probably set a story at a film studio eventually. It’s not hard to see why it would be so tempting to do that. You don’t have to build any sets, you don’t have to travel to a location, or get permission and pay fees to film somewhere else. You get exterior shots without travelling to them. You also have a ready-made location that is visually interesting and impressive, so it’s a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you? The Partner was filmed in and around Merton Park Studios in London, and it’s a bonus to get little glimpses into the world that produced this remarkable series of Edgar Wallace B movies. It’s also fascinating to see how small the studios were. Great things were achieved with modest resources. The studios are very much one of the stars of this film. Continue reading

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I, Robot… You, Jane

Sometimes rewatching Buffy makes me feel old, but never more so than I, Robot… You Jane. It’s not just that the technology seems so out-of-date that it looks prehistoric now, it’s the outdated attitudes on display that really seem alien, just two decades later.

“I met him online.”
“On line for what?”

Buffy not only doesn’t understand the world of computers, referring to e-mail as “e letters”, she represents the views of the average teenager at the time, when using a computer instead of pen, paper and books seemed the province of nerds. Note Buffy’s slip of the tongue, “computer geek”, a phrase which has now become virtually meaningless. The writers offer us two sides of the tradition/tech debate in the characters of Giles and Jenny, and their argument seems finely balanced. Nowadays Giles’ opinions are those of a dinosaur, and yet he gets something right: Continue reading

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The Twilight Zone: Mirror Image

The Twilight Zone Original Logo 1959It really speaks volumes to the way Rod Serling crafted his stories.  Here we have basically 3 people in one room for 20-odd minutes.  You’ve got Millicent, Paul and a station attendant.  Maybe you throw in a random woman who helps Millicent, or the couple sitting on a bench, but we’re only going to spend any substantial time with the aforementioned three.  Yet in 20 minutes, we are concerned for the woman.  We don’t know what her deal is, but we find ourselves drawn to her plight.  Why that’s significant is that these days, TV has started a very strange habit of introducing characters that are not easy to warm to.  They will develop over a series but from minute one, we really don’t care that much for them.  For instance, at the time of my watching this series, I’ve also been watching FX’s Y: The Last Man.  I’m 4 episodes in and, barring being intrigued by the story and one character specifically, I really don’t like any of them.  I don’t feel for the plight and believe me, it’s bigger than Millicent’s!   It makes me question what happened to our skill at writing tv scripts these days. Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes: The Second Stain

Unlike the last episode, this one stood out to me as a very good story upon my first reading it, although one wonders how our peers at Scotland Yard would fail to miss so obvious a clue as a rotated rug.  Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  

In this story, we have a similar case to season one’s The Naval Treaty.  A top secret document held by a high ranking government official has gone missing and Holmes is called into service again.  Of course, being big on the concept of the show, I have to ask how many of Watson’s cases are going to cast a bad light on someone when the truth comes out.  Surely this is one such case that will make some people in power a bit annoyed.  

Continue reading

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Star Trek: The Mark of Gideon

Star Trek Blue LogoThe Mark of Gideon is another of those significant episodes of Trek.  It’s not whether it’s good or bad, but that it is about something and gets the audience thinking.  The episode offers us a deeply satisfying mystery before hitting us with a very real problem: overpopulation.  Of course, the audience does have to take some things at face value to enjoy the episode, but the ideas are what count and for that, this is a good one. Continue reading

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Space: 1999 – The Full Circle

breakawayI never liked caveman stories.  Even Doctor Who couldn’t make them more palatable.  Nor could Ringo Starr! These stories just get annoying.  You either get Cavemen who speak English and understand full sentences or you get the grunting ooh-ooh-aah-aah’s that do not make for compelling viewing.  It’s not that much different with The Full Circle, except there is a really interesting mystery and an element of fear that manage to raise this well above the standard caveman tropes.  When one of the Eagles, along with 7 crew members, go missing on the latest planet the moon is drifting past, Koenig orders Paul to remote control the ship back to Moon Base Alpha.  Upon arriving, they find one dead caveman on board.  Koenig sends out a search party while an autopsy is performed on the dead passenger.  The rescue team find a planet where cavemen dwell.  But as the crew start vanishing, we realize something very strange is going on here. Continue reading

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