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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/04/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 14, Whole Number 1774
Table of Contents
"War of the Worlds" Broadcast 75th Anniversary:
The West Windsor Township is having a Halloween celebration in West Windsor Park on Saturday, October 26, which will include a "historical display" commemorating the 75th anniversary of the broadcast of the Mercury Theater "War of the Worlds". This is *not* the park in Princeton Junction where the monument to the broadcast was erected for the 50th anniversary in 1988--that is Van Nest Park--so if you are going, you need to make a second stop to see Van Nest. (That is on the south side of Cranbury Road just east of Mill Road, between the parking lot and the pond.) One site says that the water tower mistaken for a Martian is on the north side of Cranbury Road just west of its intersection with Clarksville Road, behind the house to the right of the Grovers Mill Co. building/barn. It is best seen after all the leaves have fallen off the trees obscuring it. One person said to go down Bolfmar Avenue (a dead end street). [-ecl]
Sports Names (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Somehow sports teams have names that supposed to be intimidating. For example the Denver Broncos and the ASU Hornets. These are really out of date. Few of us have seen a Bronco except perhaps in films. We usually do not see hornets around. What about a diamond backs? They need more relevant names. How about The Tallahassee Termites? The Seattle Sequesters? Why don't we have the DC Tax Auditors? How about the Denver Downsizers? The Greenbay Greenhouse Effect? [-mrl]
THE UNINVITED Online (in three versions) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
There was a discussion on a podcast this week of the 1944 film THE UNINVITED, based on the novel by Dorothy MacArdle published in 1942, one of the best ghost stories ever filmed. It is at once a dark ghost story, a mystery, and a romance. And it fires on all cylinders. The complete film can be streamed free at:
It was also mentioned that there were radio adaptations of the film.
Screen Directors' Playhouse did a very nice adaptation which can be found at:
Another radio program, Romance, also adapted it, but not as well:
I recommend seeing the film before you hear the radio versions.
30 Great SFF Films You Almost Certainly Haven't Seen [But Most of Which We Have] (Part 1) (comments by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper):
At LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention, there was a panel on little-known science fiction and fantasy films:
30 Great SFF Films You Almost Certainly Haven't Seen
Saturday, 2 PM
Perrianne Lurie (M), Adam-Troy Castro, Terry Floyd, Elektra Hammond
Description: "The many new options for home viewing have greatly increased the availability of any number of obscure, independent, and foreign films available to anybody willing to risk a journey off the beaten path. Panelists will take two minutes apiece to sell you some little-known masterpieces you should check out at you first opportunity. Be prepared to take notes."
Well, this was a popular panel! The panelists asked the audience members to raise their hands if they had seen the movies the panel suggests. Mark and I had our hands in the air for most of the films. Panelists and people around us were amazed we had seen so many of the films. Since we sat toward the front of the room we were unaware that we were alone in the number of films we recognized.
Rather than list the films chronologically, we will list each panelist's suggestions. And, yes, there are more than thirty. (The ones with question marks I was unable to find in the IMDB, so I may have gotten the name wrong.)
Mark is making the bracketed comments on those films we have seen.
Next week we will continue on with lists of notable obscure films by Elektra Hammond and Perrine Lurie. [-mrl/ecl]
RED REIGN: THE BLOODY HARVEST OF CHINA'S PRISONERS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Often revolting and often enraging RED REIGN, exposes China's organ harvesting from Falun Gong members. These people are imprisoned for their spiritual beliefs frequently only to be executed and have their organs stolen and harvested for the international organ market. First time feature film director Masha Savitz reveals a story we hear little of in this country and which comes as a powerful shock and cause for outrage. This is a disturbing and important film. It contains disturbing descriptions of torture and murder. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
On June 28, 2001, the BBC reported that involuntary organ donation is illegal in China but that critics say the Chinese government allows the practice. China has a high execution rate and the bodies then sometimes are harvested after the prisoners' deaths. A Dr. Wang Guoqi reported to Congress that he had harvested skin and corneas from nearly one hundred executed prisoners. At that time the BBC quoted a United States State Department official that the reports of Chinese organ harvesting were "credible and numerous."
It is reported that since 2000 the Chinese government has been systematically harvesting organs from people who practice Falun Gong. David Matas, nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and senior legal counsel of the B'nai Brith Canada, has made helping the Falun Gong a particular interest. He is the co-author with Canadian MP David Kilgour of REPORT INTO ALLEGATIONS OF ORGAN HARVESTING OF FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS IN CHINA.
Falun Gong, an offshoot of Buddhism, is a spiritual and physical discipline, much like Yoga is. The Chinese government sees it as a threat to its power and the practice was outlawed in 1999 and its members persecuted in China. Hundreds of thousands of adherents were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. The Falun Gong has frequently taken public stands for human rights and for an end to Communist rule. In the years from its introduction in 1992 to 1997 it may have grown to 70 to 100 million adherents--more than the 60 million in the Communist Party. Members of Falun Gong do not drink or smoke and they exercise, making their organs particularly desirable for transplant.
In the United States the wait for a heart for transplant is eight months. The same American can go to China and can have a heart transplant in two weeks. But the organ must come from a healthy person and must have left that person no more than four to six hours before being transplanted. The doctors who transplant the organs must have specific information when the healthy donor will die. Hence the donor's death has to be scheduled carefully to provide the heart to the surgeon within minutes. This will very probably be from a "donor" whose crime is no more than practicing the discipline of Falun Gong.
RED REIGN also covers the international strategies of the Chinese Communist Party to cover up the human right abuses in China. As the film recounts a documentary made for Canadian broadcast on the subject of the Falun Gong was hushed just hours before it was to be broadcast due to political pressure and what were essentially bribes from representatives of the Chinese Government.
The film looks at the ethical dilemma a patient faces. If organs are unavailable from any other source then the patient's decision becomes one of dying or paying to have the donor, a stranger, murdered to die in the patient's place. Is a patient immoral to choose to live even if it means a stranger will die? Is a doctor wrong to send a patient to China to save the patient's life? These are not easy moral questions. This is a powerful film and one of the best documentaries of the year. I rate RED REIGN: THE BLOODY HARVEST OF CHINA'S PRISONERS a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Cinema Libre has released the film to DVD and Video on Demand as of September 24.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2626756/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/red_reign/
PRISONERS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: When two neighboring families each have a young daughter disappear, one of the fathers (played by Hugh Jackman) decides that the police detective on the case (Jake Gyllenhaal) is taking the investigation in the wrong direction. He decides to go after a suspect himself. PRISONERS is atmospheric and suspenseful and features a Gordian Knot of contradictory clues. The film is punctuated with considerable violence, but the mayhem is not the point of the complex plot. The plot is like a whirlpool. The more it twists the deeper it goes and the darker it gets until it has the same sense of dread as had ZODIAC and SE7EN. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
It is Thanksgiving Day and the family of carpenter Keller Dover (played by Hugh Jackman) is having the holiday dinner with their friends the Birches, headed by Franklin (Terrence Howard). Each family has a teenager and the two are friends. And each has a daughter in the six-year-old age range. The two little girls go off to go to the Dover home and simply and totally disappear. Of course there are the scenes of frantic searches and Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned the case. The solitary Loki is a really good detective who has never failed to solve a case. Still, he has constant friction between him and his superior. (I could have done without this cliche.) The police find a strange RV that was seen in the neighborhood before the girls disappeared. It was driven by Alex Jones, a retarded man with the IQ of a ten-year-old. Paul Dano plays Alex, still carrying the creepiness he earned himself in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Keller is convinced that Jones has abducted the two girls and knows where they are. He devises a plan to force the information from Alex.
PRISONERS is not just a film about conflicting people. It is a film with competing genres. It could turn out to be a film with a strong anti-vigilante message. It could be human story of how different people react to loss and fear. It might be a complex suspense mystery. Or it could turn out to be an action thriller, but it would be hard to make it all four. Director Denis Villeneuve keeps the viewer guessing just where he is going with the film. Aaron Guzikowski's script in the hands of Villeneuve has to balance these genres and not let any suffer too much. Where they are going with the story will depend on which genre they choose. Perhaps that just adds to the suspense of the film.
Villeneuve, a French Canadian, works overtime to give Keller strong Americana principles. Keller hunts deer and brings his son along hunting. The carpenter tries to inculcate him with survivalist values such as "Pray for the best, prepare for the worst." And when the occasion arises he is quick to pray out loud. Villeneuve does everything but model the Thanksgiving dinner on Norman Rockwell.
The entire dark plot unfolds under constantly dismal Pennsylvania skies which set the tone for the entire film.
PRISONERS features several good actors even in some lesser roles including Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, and Maria Bello. The film gets a strong performance from the rage-filled Hugh Jackman, just following his strong performance in LES MISERABLES.
In this film you may not like where the story is going, but you are compelled to go with it. In the end the territory turns out disappointingly familiar, but the ride to that point is gripping. I rate it +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392214/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/prisoners_2013/
LUCKY EXPRESS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: In large numbers homeless children in India come to live on the platforms of train stations. There are eleven million platform children, and more than three hundred a day joins them. Almost all will be abused, raped, enslaved by drugs or will turn to crime. It is a law of the jungle society with the strong abusing the weak. Stories and accounts fall from the victims' lips so fast one almost cannot keep up with the subtitles. Director Anna Fischer takes us to the platforms and interviews the children to get accounts of their every-day lives. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Director Anna Fischer takes us through the train stations of India to show a desperate sub-society of young Indians with no place else to go living on or around train station platforms.
For many Indians, the government can do little to help them. The destitute and homeless have to live by their wits. This is especially true of children living on their own. Each year over 120,000 go to join the swelling society of "platform children" living around the railroads. Here they have a society all their own but run by gangs. With nobody to protect them, they usually need to join gangs to protect themselves. They get what pleasure from life they can. 90% turn to drugs, most commonly glue sniffing. There are frequent stories of children being lured by promises of chocolate and having an eye or a kidney stolen to be sold on the black market.
Guiding Fischer is a former platform child--Vijay Bahadhur (nickname "Lucky"). With Lucky's help she documents the lives of platform children living in a society of their own. Lucky himself became a platform child at six or seven and had survived five years on the platforms, frequently supporting himself by picking pockets. Now he has aspirations of becoming a filmmaker.
There are shelters for the platform children and where they can be fed, but many prefer the life on the train platforms. It is harder for the light-skinned children and the younger children since they are more likely to be sexually abused, raped, or harassed. Some are forced to take drugs to control them in virtual slavery. Most are beaten by the police.
There are some organizations (mostly non-governmental) helping the children to avoid the platform culture and to give them refuge. In the film we see several projects to help the platform children. We see the late Inderjit Khurana who ran teaching programs that go to the students to educate them and give them hope.
Toward the end Fischer lightens the tone. Her style becomes more optimistic interviewing platform children who have escaped that life and are now successful. And we go with her as she takes Lucky back to Nepal to see the village of his birth.
The style of the film is fairly straightforward. With Lucky as her translator and emissary Fischer, only occasionally visible on camera, talks to the platform children and gets their stories. Probably Fischer spends a little too much time showing happy children in the provided shelters. Once the point has been made that the children are better off in shelters, happy children look much the same no matter what their background is. Street scenes from India do have appeal for the viewer.
Fischer has to walk a fine line here. She declares her respect for India in the closing credits, but it seems clear the Indian government should be helping these children more than they are.
I rate LUCKY EXPRESS a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. On August 27, 2013, LUCKY EXPRESS was released to DVD and digital platforms.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2316851/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lucky_express_2012/
World War II (letter of comment by Tim Bateman):
In response to Mark's comments on World War II in the 09/20/13 issue of the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes:
[You say,] "Most Americans think of the war as starting December 7, 1941, after hostilities in Europe. Many who think better of it say it was 1939. Evelyn thinks that is very Eurocentric. The real start of hostilities was the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931."
Correctimundo. It also extends till 1953 if you are from Lithuania. Given the lack of joint action by the Rome-Berlin Axis and Japan, the "answer" might be to divide the Second World War into the European War (1939 to 1953) and The Pacific War (1931 to 1945). [-tb]
SHERLOCK HOLMES WAS WRONG, and TCM Movies in October (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to Evelyn's comments on SHERLOCK HOLMES WAS WRONG in the 09/27/13 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
I found a copy of SHERLOCK HOLMES WAS WRONG at the Half-Price Books about a month ago--clearance shelves, $1--and figured, "sounds promising." Haven't read it yet since I've been busy with school business and all, but it's on the reading shelf about six books down the line. In other words, two weeks from now I should be reading it. Your brief review makes it sound promising. If I remember I'll let you know what I think of the book.
In reponse to Mark comments on TCM's movies in October in the same issue, John writes:
TCM's October movies are usually fun watching thanks to Halloween. For quite a few months now my wife and I have been watching MeTV on our local cable provider for that channel's Saturday night Sci-Fi Fare. It's six hours of fun, starting with two episodes of Batman, then LOST IN SPACE, classic STAR TREK, then Svengoolie hosts his weekly old horror/sci-fi movie. This week it's THE LEECH WOMAN (1943?; not sure of the date). Then the night wraps up with an episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. I usually make popcorn the old-fashioned way (in a popper pan that has one of those hand- cranked stirring handles) for the movie. This has become our Saturday night ritual, and have a good time.
Thanks for firing off your weekly ish. Missed you guys in San Antonio at Worldcon. I don't even know if you two even were there! If so, you should have swung by the fanzine lounge and said hello. [-jp]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Mark Hofman was a very talented forger who created several forgeries that were purportedly important documents relating to the history. His crimes led to their own twisted path with Hofmann building bombs to kill two people who stood in his way.
"The Mormon Murders" (a.k.a. "The Mormon Forgery Murders"), or rather the story leading up to them, have fascinated people since Mark Hofmann committed them on October 15, 1985. At least four books have been written about the story:
SALAMANDER: THE STORY OF THE MORMON FORGERY MURDERS by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts (ISBN 978-1-560-85200-1, 1988) is an incredibly detailed account of the forgeries and murders, beginning with the grandparents of all the main characters and going through all the investigators involved and the leads they followed. Given that the Salt Lake City Police Department; the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office; the FBI; the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and various LDS offices, universities, and antiquarian and forensic specialists were involved, it is very complicated. There is a very thorough index by name, but I really wish there had been a cast of characters (e.g., "Gerry D'Elia: arson prosecutor, Salt Lake County Attorney's Office").
It is a bit confusing in its timeline as well, starting with the murders for the first third of the book, then flashing back for the middle third of the book to cover the backgrounds of Hofmann and others, and the forgeries (all told as seen by everyone but Hofmann--the authors never write from his point of view). Then it jumps back to the prosecution of the case for the last third of the book.
A GATHERING OF SAINTS: A TRUE STORY OF MONEY, MURDER AND DECEIT by Robert Lindsey (ISBN 978-0-671-65112-1, 2002) also goes into detail about the backgrounds of the main characters, etc., but also gives a lot of Mormon history as well. Because it gives so much detail, it has the same problems the Sillitoe and Roberts book has: it is almost impossible to keep track of everyone with a diagram. However, it does tell the main story in chronological order (only the Mormon history parts are told out of sequence--they are inserted when the documents pertaining to them make their first appearance).
VICTIMS: THE LDS CHURCH AND THE MARK HOFMANN CASE by Richard Turley (ISBN 978-0-252-01885-5) is reportedly the most scholarly of the group, having been written by the Managing Director of the LDS Church Historical Department. For example, it includes a fifty- page list of all the documents Hofmann dealt in and with in his career. And it has an index, something that Worrall's book (for example) lacks. Turley gives the fullest background of official Church history of the group as well, making it in that regard perhaps the best one to start with if the forgeries you are most interested in are those of supposed Church documents. [I have not yet had a chance to see this one.]
THE POET AND THE MURDERER: A TRUE STORY OF LITERARY CRIME AND THE ART OF FORGERY by Simon Worrall (ISBN 978-0-525-94596-3) draws on the three earlier books but also focuses on a less well-covered aspect of the whole story, when Hofmann not just forges but actually composes a poem purportedly written by Emily Dickinson. At least a third of the book is spent describing the creation and subsequent history of this poem. Worrall also draws conclusions somewhat at divergence with the official ones.
One reason that the other books do not cover this document is that it was not publicly auctioned until 1997, almost a decade after two of the other books were published, and five years after the third. The poem had made the rounds earlier, but pretty much below the radar, and its presence in an auction at Sotheby's clearly added another chapter to the already twisted tale.
Alas, Worrall has no index. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others. --Samuel JohnsonTweet
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