Ian's GUIDE TO TV AND MOVIES

Now I'm no Roger Ebert but here is a menagerie of some of my favourites from the idiot box and silver screen some of which extend back to my tender years while others might be more familiar. Having become increasingly disillusioned with both TV and what movies should be about, my trips to the theatre have become less and less frequent and my viewing time in front of the idiot box virtually non-existent. How many computer generated effects and explosions do I have to sit through? The latest movies are 100% passive and require little thinking. So, without any apologies here is my requiem  for some lost classics and icons.  I hope they still possess some signifigance in this age of Avatar and GI Joe and (gasp) another Star Wars movie in the works which are literally transforming  us into vegetables. I struggle to find some substance and soul in movies of today. 


                    The Frendliest Giant


For those who are too young or didn`t grow up in Canada during the 60s 70s or 80s I will offer some reflections, commentary and trivia on a hero from my tender years ( and not so tender years ) The Friendly Giant.

First , the premis. There`s this giant who lives somewhere out in the countryside ( we don`t know exactly where ) who has two friends, a very talkative giraffe named Jerome who has perfect teeth and a little rooster named Rusty who lives in a sack ( yes a sack ) who wears ploka dotted pyjamas and speaks in a flasetto-like voice. The show was always introduced by a diarama of acountry scene featuring a road, a farm, animals with the appropriate sound effects and, depending on the season, snow, rain sunshine etc. The camera would pan slowly from right to left finally arriving at the " big boot " and then you were introduced to the giant himself who would invite you up to his castle by telling you, " I`ll hurry up to the castle and go in the back door so I can let the drawbridge down and open the big doors for you. Are you ready ? " Once inside the castle you would find yourself in a cozy miniature living room with a fireplace and three chairs, " a big one in the middle, and a rocking chair for those who like to rock. "  The giant would arrange the chairs and then ask you to " look up, look waaaaaay up and I`ll call Rusty". Rusty would emerge from his sack  which was hung on the wall next to a big window through which the giant would whistle for Jerome who was never far off. Jerome would arrive with a jolly greeting, " Hello Friendly, Hello Rusty. I never really understood the concept behind the sack but Rusty could stash a hell of a lot of crap down there. Often he would produce a picture book which was read to the young audience by the giant with Rusty and Jerome offering comments along the way. Thet were sort of like a peanut gallery for young people. . On other days they were joined by a variety of animal friends with their assortment of instruments in the giant`s music room. Friendly would play the recorder or clarinet, Rusty the harp and Jerome the Harmonica. Many musical forms and styles were explored from contemporary jazz to 16th century baroque.


 Because the show lasted only 15 minutes per episode there were no commercial breaks which gave it continuity and enabled it to run at a gradual pace in order to develop children`s attention spans. The friendly Giant was arguably the best show of it`s genre ever produced. It had a very simple and docile approach and taught children to read and appreciate books, the arts and animals. At the conclusion of each episode Friendly, Rusty and Jerome would have a brief rap session recounting all the fun that they had and everything that they had learned that day. Then the giant would take out his recorder and play the theme music as the camera panned back down to the living room (I hated this part because yo had to say goodbye). The giant would then extend his hand and invite you back another time. During the 26 years that the program ran Bob Homme who played the giant never made public appearances in order to maintain the illusion that a huge friendly giant lived in a big castle somewhere out inthe country side reminding  those who lived it of their childhood innocence.


   Ian`s Non-Exhaustive Movie Compendium : Some  of My Faves


During the Vietmam War an overweight, bald special forces colonel goes insane and starts playing God deep in the jungle. High command doesn`t like this too much so they send in their man, Captain Willard to off him. An excellent film adaptation of Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad that was first published in 1902 and set in the Belgian Congo.



13th century Scottish folk hero William Wallace takes on the English. Moons them. Spectacular medieval fight scenes. Death, gore, suffering etc.


British military injustice against three Australian Army officers during the boer War for implementing rule 303 which requires any Boer wearing a British uniform to be shot as a spy. Based on a true story and the book Scapegoats Of An Empire by one of the real-life participants, Lt. George Witten. A courtroom classic. John Grisham eat your heart out.




A young girl descends into drugs and prostitution in West Berlin during the 1970s. Tragic & stark story based on the book Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo, the real life story of Vera Christiane Felscherinow between the years 1975 & 1982. Great cameo by David Bowie who provided most of the soundtrack. I once met a heroin addict who was trying to get off the shit but was using it for medicinal purposes. He seemed to be a sincere guy and was willing to talk about it so I asked him in a nutshell what it was like to be tripped out on heroin. This is the short answer he gave me. " Imagine yourself sitting in a coffee shop and some homocidal maniac came through the door and started spraying the room with gunfire. You would just sit there and not care" .


Animated tale of good vs Evil. A green orb with mystical powers travels through time and space and when or wherever it shows uo,shit happens. Great soundtrack by Sammy Hagar,Black Sabbath,Cheap Trick,Nazareth & others.





A gangster`s wife cheats on him. See Helen Miren naked. A far cry from her award winning performance in The Queen.


Inspector Calahan of The San Fransisco Police Dept.hunts down a psychopath using unorthodox lone ranger police methods.


" Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war " Mercenaries kick as in a banana republic. Poetic justice is served.



Repulsive nightmares don`t get any more repulsive than this. Bachelor's beware! Do not rent this film on a first date with your first date's 8 year-old little brother around which is what I did. His head got messed up,she became a corporate lawyer and I'm stil l chasing my head around.


Showdown between good and evil ( literally! ). This time young girl gets possessed by the Devil. Witch doctors are called in to dispense pesky spirit. Cool scene of young girl throwing up on witch doctor.


FRANKENSTEIN (1931 uncut version) 

 A mad scientist constructs a monster using body parts robbed from the local graveyard. The monster escapes from the laboratory and heads into the village and that`s when all the fun begins. 


Monty Python`s interpretation of the legend of King Arthur. Horses are substituted with coconuts. Spectacular on location scenery in the highlands of Scotland. Police put a stop to unmitigated silliness at the end.


An astronaut returns to Earth with a bloodthirsty alien using his body as an incubator. If you are 8 years old don't watch this late at night.



Frank Castle. Cop. Bad guys blow up family. Frank decides everyone must pay and paybacks are a bitch when you`re dealing with Frank. Revenge and rage galore. Frank lives in the sewer system in order to elude athorities. Based on the DC comic book character. 

The French Connection 

Frenchmen make deal with American hoods to smuggle Heroin from France in Lincoln Mk IV. American detectives detect the racket. Cool car chase with train. See 1971 Pontiac LeMans get trashed by Gene Hackman. Best early seventies crime violence based loosely on true events.

Raw Deal

Arnold Scwarzenegger destabilises the mob. Takes them all on at once and wins. Arnie sums up the carnage : " I guess this is what they call poetic justice".

The Blair Witch Project

Kids go into a forest hunting for a witch, get scared. The end. 8 days of filming with a cheap hand held camera a bag of weed et le viola! $248,639,099 at the box office. Roger Ebert says : '' An extraordinarily effective horror fillm'' Wonder what kind of drugs he was taking.



Lola recieves a frantic phone call from her boyfriend Mani. She has 20 minutes to come up with 10,000 Deutche marks that he lost or his shady bosses will top him.. Based on minor timetrack variations the film follows 3 scenarios. Each one begins with a cool little animated Lola setting off on her frantic run.

THX 1138 

It`s the world of the future and the computers have taken over. Humans are forbidden have emotions and are force fed sedatives and assigned numbers. THX 1138 falls in love with LH 1147 and they take on the computer. Very Orwellian. Obscure early Robert Duvall film who plays THX1138.




                                            THIS IS SPINAL TAP

Fictional rockumentary about a band whose amps go to eleven. High strung manager smashes TV sets with cricket bat. A Boston gig is cancelled because " it isn't a college town ".


Gun-ho pearl handled revolver-toting three star general who believes in the after life blasts his way through Africa, Italy and finally Europe. War according to General Gearge S.Patton.


Clint Eastwood proves the old fashioned western is not dead yet. Outlaw comes out of retirement to collect a bounty. Becomes one man vengeance machine. Classic corrupt sheriff vs righteous outlaw. Old west justice prevails.


1965 documentary style educational film depicting aftermath of a nuclear attack. I saw this in grade 3. Lots of graphic flesh burns caused by radiation guaranteed to give young children horrific nightmares! Situations contradict the presence of a camera


Classic science fiction journey through time and space. A mysterious black slab keeps an eye on man's intellectual progress over a few million years and intervenes whenever it feels like it. HAL the computer suffers paranoid delusions on the way to Jupiter and must be stopped. Man's progress reaches it's limit and can never acheive the divinity of the black slab. This film still makes my brain hurt.


A high ranking American general is captured by the Germans and held in the Shloss Adler in the Bavarian Alps during WWII. Aided by sexy OSS operatives allied commandos parachute in on impossible rescue mission. Nonstop violence with many plot twists. Clint Eastwood kills half of the Wermacht. Great rollicking WWII fun. Based on the Alistair McLean action adventure novel that he wrote in 3 weeks.


An ex-naval officer`s son dies mysteriously while working for MI6. Dad smells a rat and investigates. Discovers sinister Soviet conspiracy. One of the lesser know cold war thrillers starring Michael Caine and Sir John Gelgiud based on the thiller by John Hale. John Le Carré eat your heart out.


Cool scene here of a young girl throwing water on a wicked witch causing her to melt. Same young girl pulls off one of the greatest song performances in the history of the silver screen. 


Another animated tale of good vs evil. This time a good sorceror saves the goodness of a magic kingdom from his evil twin brother. Poetic.



Uncle Buck takes care of the kids. Drives beat up 1972 Mercury. Smokes, drinks and plays the horses, enforces niece`s chasity and makes world's largest pancake. Classic John Candy.



Alcoholic cop follows trail of serial killer. Has steamy love affair with main suspect. Cop gets his man. See Ellen Barkin naked.


Most believable James Bond film with fashion model playing Bond. Bond girl can actually act and script actually follows book.





Two hardened crimminals break out of super-max jail in Alaska. Jump a train. Engineer has heart attack. Authorities chase runaway train with helicopter. Nonstop existential action and drama.

Harry Brown

Harry Brown, 77 year old pensioner & ex-Royal Marine.Brown's best buddy with whom he served with in Northern Ireland is offed by killer kids with guns. Set in a drug and crime infested council estate in south London. Police can't do anything so Harry buys gun and takes law into his own hands and starts offing the bad kids on-by-one without mercy. Police are baffled and can't believe an elderly man could be doing all this. Great vigilante justice. Harry is played by Sir Michael Caine who depicts Harry as a victim rather than a renegade.  One of Caine's most brilliant performances.





Car salesman in dire straights pays two half-wits to kidnap wife and steal ransom. Everything goes horribly wrong. Pregnant police officer investigates. Based on a true story. Maybe. Deadpan dialogue makes actors sound Swedish.


Sexy Ann Margret gives Elvis a run for his money in Elvis  Presley's last great movie.                                                              



                         My Favourite Car Chase


                               No words necessary ( From Ronin )

                  The Catwoman : My first Love

Unfortunately there`s no such thing as a perfect woman. However, every one of these fictional TV land characters possess at least one quality that I look for in real life.


                              THE CATWOMAN

             Julie Newmar from the original 60s Batman series

 I always thought the Catwoman was a dark, tragic and misunderstood figure. She didn`t mean to do all those nasty things and actually had a thing for Batman. When she came home from an exhausting day of crime shewould probably cry on your shoulder and in a sincere remorseful way purr to you " I can`t help it, I am what I am ". You would offer her solace and comfort in a nice saucer of fresh milk and then cuddle and pet her. You also wouldn`t have to worry about giving a dishonest answer to that inevitable question, " Honey, do I look fat in this? ".





                     Diana Rigg from The Avengers 

A bored widow with a taste for adventure. She was suave sophisticated and knew how to dress. A woman of fine things and good taste. After a hard day out beating the crap out of all kinds of villinous clowns and psychos you could prepareher a candlelight dinner with some soft baroque harpsichord music playing in the back ground.. Once a year you could bring her to the horse races at Ascot, England. She would wear period cotume and a flamboyant Chapeau.

                                              ALICE KRAMDEN

               Audrey Meadows from The Honeymooners

Alice would let you do just about anything until you screwed it up beyond belief.. She would then forgive you and continue to give you unconditional love and everything would be peachy until the next big screw up. She could also be a fox if she wanted to. Check out this video of the other side of Alice.






              WILMA FLINTSTONE !

             ( see Alice Kramden above )





                                     SEVEN OF NINE

                        Jeri Ryan from Star Trek Voyageur

 There probably wouldn`t be anything romantic happening here but there would be  a lot of interesting discussions about science and the future and she would watch Stephen Hawking`s A brief History Of Time movie with you over and over. And I could tell her that dogs are considered as equals to humans down here on Earth and do everything we do including eating from the table ,sleeping on the bed and driving the car. She would also have many enquiring questions about dogs as well, such as " Can they be assimulated?" Plus, I like that Borgish woman look.   

Seven Of Nine was introduced in the 4th season of Star Trek Voyaguer because the producers felt that they needed a character that could offer alien commentary on human viewpoints just like Spock did in the original series. Here are some of my favourite Seven Of Nine lines:

" I've experienced enough humanity for the time being."

"I understand the concept of humour. It may not be apparent but... I'm amused by human behaviour."

"Borgs don't believe. They know."

"When your captain first approached us we suspected that an agreement with humans would be impossible to maintain. You are...erratic...conflicted...disorganized. Every decision is debated...every action questioned...everyindividual entitled to their own small opinion. You lack harmony...cohesion...greatness. It will be your undoing."

"I have long accepted what the Borg did to me. What I will not accept is defeat. I am confident that we will find a way home. Failure is not an option."  



Leona The Fair

Raquel Welch in 1 Million Years BC

Who wouldn't mind coming home from a hard day at the office after being stuck in rush hour traffic and have a wife who ran around in a skimpy fur bikini. Not only on weekdays but ALL THE TIME ! She probably wouldn't get nuch housework or cooking done but could you imagine the extraordinary looks you would get when you went out with herto a fine dining restaurant, a shakespeare play or a recital of classical music?

This is how raquel Welch appeared in the 1965 remake of 1 million years BC where she spoke only 3 lines. There wasn't much plot and the movie also neglects the fact that dinosaurs were extinct some 65 million years before the first homo sapiens appeared in the geologic time scale. But I guess you can let that go when you see Raquel running around half naked. It was one of those great films you got to see as a kid when the babysitter let you stay up late to watch just to scare the hell out of you. 




     Yvonne DeCarlo  from The Munsters

 No matter what you looked like or did for a living Lily would stand by you 100%. She would cook and fuss over you and bring you beer & pizza while you watched the hockey game. Plus I like that halloweenee vampirish woman look.

Yvonne De Carlo passed away on January 8, 2007 and was one of my all time favourute hollywood heroines. She is probably best known for her role as Lilly Munster in The Munsters which ran for only two seasons on CBS between Sept. `64 and May '66 was filmed entirely in black & white for effect. It was sort of a cross between Leave it to Beaver and The Honey mooners depicting the innocence and values of the all American family with Hereman Munster occasionally coming up with some sort of sceme to become successful beyond all possibility. Even though they lived at# 13 Mockingbird Lane, had a pet dragon named Spot, looked like characters out of a 1930s horror flick and had a mad scientist grandfather who was 378 years old who frequently blew up his laboratory located in the dungeon they were your all-American 1960s family.



Well not exactly a TV or movie star but one of my guilty pleasures is reading Blondie in the Montréal Gazette every day. Intelligent and responsible, Blondie puts up with all kinds of shit from Dagwood and has to nag him to get things done and  ocasionally loses it and I really don't blame her because for the most part she's sweet and understanding and has accepted the fact that her husband can be an idiot. On the contrary she is dangerous with money but I mean if you want to get rid of her for an afternoon so you can have a few buddies over to watch the football game and drink beer just give her money and poof! Gone for the afternoon. Plus all your buddies will envy you wondering how a guy like you could end up with such a bodacious babe.

                             The Green Hornet `66


When I first started reading The Green Hornet comic books as a kid I found he was  more down to earth and believable as far as superheroes went when compared to The Xmen, The Shadow or The Fantastic Four. A vigilante operating outside the confines of the law taking on all comers from the seedy underworld, The Green Hornet was originally created as a radio show back in the 1930s and could trace his blood line back to the Lone Ranger. The setting changed from the wild west to the mean streets of contemporary America. Actor Van Williams played The Green Hornet in the 1966 TV series and instead of a horse named Silver and a sidekick named Tonto his mount was a hopped up 1966 Chrysler Imperial and his sidekick was a Chineese- American black belt named Kato ( played by Bruce Lee ) who was brave and stoic and ina ddition to his keen intelligence was well versed in the secrets of oriental combat. The Black Beauty which was referred to as the Hornet`s rolling arsenal, had rockets, infa-green headlights, a remote surveillance drone, a sonic blast and could be rigged for silent running. Just about the coolest car ever to appear in a TV series. Made James Bond`s Aston Martin look like a child`s toy.


On police records the Green Hornet was a wanted criminal which facilitated his contact with the underworld who revered him as the bad ass of bad asses. By day he was Britt Reid the publisher of The Daily Sentinel newspaper and his confidante within the law was the local District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon. His true identity was also known by his secretary, Lenore Case. He was also chased by The Daily Sentinel`s police reporter Mike Axford who could never arrive in time. The highlight of each episode was watching the Hornet and Kato beat the crap out of the bad guys and then taking a piece of their action and disappearing before the cops arrived. Produced by William Dozier the same creator of the 60s Batman series, the Green Hornet was more conventional and rather than fighting a bunch of bizarre clown villians he dealt with a more realistic enemy : ruthless gangsters that included counterfieters, bootleggers, art thieves, drug dealers, corrupt cops, arsonists and Green Hornet impersonators! Unlike Batman's goody two shoes image The Green Hornet was dashing, debonair and serious. Perhaps for this reason the campy Batman drew more attention than the straight shooting no-nonsense style of the Hornet and the overall appeal of Batman. Kids could love Batman and adults could take it as a lampoon and laugh at it. Consequently, the Green Hornet only survived 26 30 minute episodes. had it not been for the more outrageuos Batman series some of the mediocre stories could have been developed. Many viewers felt that The Green Hornet was boring and too routine and to make matters worse it was up against Tarzan and The Wid, Wild West, two established action shows, when it made it's debut in 1966. The Green Hornet even makes an appearance in a Batman episode! 


The Green Hornet & Kato might not have saved the world but they were damn cool. Kato`s martial arts, The Black Beauty and the Green Hornet`s cool head and suave disposition were unbeatable. Tell me this vid isn`t cool. I never got sick of this stock sequence when The Hornet and Kato were getting ready to go out on another nocturnal caper.

                        Beauty Survives

 I cannot speak  Klingon  and I have never dressed up as Mr. Spock on Halloween.  However if one can ignore the cheesy sets and production flaws , many aspects of the 1966-69 Star trek television series were quite remarkable. More morality plays than science fiction stories, many of the stories were penned by some of the best science fiction writers of the 1960s and I enjoyed them immensly. Perhaps my favourite episode of them all was That Which Survives for a number of reasons, not the least being the fact that the mysterious woman character was played by former Miss America Lee Merriwether ( measurements 34/22/35 ). Despite the cliché Kirk takes on a computer and wins plot  combined with the Enterprise in jeopardy plot I thought it was a very tragic episode once the plight of the mysterious woman was revealed at the end. Here`s my exclusive synopsis. Ready then ?


 It`s stardate 5720.3 and the Enterprise is sent on a mission to investigate a planet which , according to the ship`s sensors, is too young ( only 1000 years ) to account  for it`s physical evolution. While the landing party is in the transporter in the process of beaming down to check out the strange situation a mysterious woman materializes in the transporter room  and speaks the words "  wait you must not go  "  and kills the the transporter operator by simply touching him.  Meanwhile, down on the planet the landing party begin to  conduct their investigations. With the party is a geologist who, of course, goes off on his own to take readings of rock structure, soil etc. when the mysterious woman appears and kills him  in a similar manner to that of the transport operator. " He`s dead Jim ", declares Dr. McCoy. 

Back up on the ship the death of the operator has been diagnosed as cellular disruption. At about  the same time a strange force hurls the  ship away from the planet in an uncontrollable speed.. Scotty manages to cut the magnetic field which regulates the flow of fuel to the matter/anti-matter power source ( or something like that ) . Spock then computes the position of the ship to be 990.7 light years away from the planet and calculates that they have only  48.87 minutes to high tail it back to the planet at warp 8. Scotty starts to get panicky and Mr. Spock tells him  that  this isn`t the time to get emotional. Spock then manages to plot a course back to the planet but is then faced with another crises when the strange force re-asembles the ship out of phase  with normal space ( I don`t know about you but I hate it when this happens).


Things aren`t going to well for the landing party  down on the planet at this point either. The mysterious woman has re-appeared and targets Sulu by anouncing that " I am for you Sulu " .  By this time the landing party has pretty much figured out that being touched by her will prove fatal. They have also ascertained that she can only focus on one thing at a time and block Sulu from her. She then turns herself into  a thin vertical black line  which compresses itself into a single black dot and then disappears. I thought this was a cool visual effect for 1960s television.  Anyway , the landing party  finds out that she originates  from a chamber with a camouflaged rock  entrance which contains an active computer system  which is controlling the images of the mysterious woman. It then creates three images of her so she can kill allt hree members left of the landing party, but by this time Spock has sorted out the Enterprise situation and arrives just in time to disable the computer. A visual recording is played automatically by the  which containes the mysterious wopman`s image. She identifies herself as Losira, the last survivor of a race known as the Kalandians. She explains that she was the commander of the outpost when her whole team became infected by a deadly  organism during terra foaming of the planet. The computer, which was left on autopilot, was using her image to defend the outpost until help arrived. It never did, and the ships sent out on the rescue mission also contracted and spread the disease and the whole race was wiped out.

Phew!  This particular episode was episode no 69  from the third season and was aired for the first time on January 24, 1969 almost  7 months prior to the first lunar landing  by Apollo 11. It offers a warning about the dangers and unknowns which lie waiting for us a s space explorers. I sort of liked the comment on how a machine cannot  replace a human. Of course , the fact that the commander of the outpost was a voluptuous actress with a 34/22/35 figure also had a certain appeal. It was a sexy episode. 



Lee Merriweather as Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie 

          The ODESSA File - Film Appreciation


When considering playing armchair movie critic in this section my first choice was 2001: A Space Odyssey but I gave it second thoughts because of it's prolific represenation both on the web and in pop culture. It has been covered so many times that anything I would have to say about it here would just be superflorous. After searching for material on one of my favourite movies on the web I noticed that it wasn't everyone's favourite movie and found very little documentation. I thought it would be a cool project as a subject for this little exercise at playing film critic.

I first saw this compelling film based on the Frederick Forsyth novel of the same name about a young German reporter who confronts the past evils of nazism when I was in high school in the 9th grade. It was one of those days when classes were cancelled because of a snow blizzard. Some of us had already made it to the school before the anouncement of the school closure was anounced on the radio, so in order to give us something to do they herded us into the auditorium to watch a movie. Expecting some boring educational film my history teacher Mrs. Long told me that I would like it and to pay attention because I would learn more about  history  from this film than I would from Hogan's Heroes.

Well,  she was right. I was rivetted to my seat and fascinated by  main character Peter Miller's conviction and single-minded detrmination. I found it not only to be very instructive but it became one of my favourite movies of all time. Devoid of explosions and shootouts that are so common in modern day thrillers such as The Bourne Identity trilogy and Mission Impossible, The Odessa File relied on an understated approach with dialogue that you had to pay attention to or else you would be lost. Many critics complained that it tended to drag but I completely disagree but more about this later in my examination.

Watching The Odessa File in grade 9 for the first time opened up a new world of suspense and thriller novels for me. After the film I raced out and bought Forsyth's book. Having been weaned on The Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes, I was now ready to run with the big dogs. Other captivating suspense novels by John LeCarré, Jack Higgins and Len Deighton began to catch my fancy as a direct result of this film. But for me Forsyth will always be the master and his historical novels have always teranslated well into films. In the 35 or so yrears since the Odessa File first appeared in print it remains as instructive as ever and serves as a reminder of perhaps the most turbulent era of mankind. Both the film and book are very similar with the book of course containing more detail with the ending of the movie deviating slightly without detracting from the enigmatic plot. When the film opened on October 18, 1974 it elicited some unfavourable reviews particularily from Nora Sayre of the New York Times. Without spilling the beans ( like I did with my favourite Star Trek episode ) I'll  provide a breif synopsis without giving too much away and then try to win you over to my cause with a short evaluation afterwards. Ready?

 The film opens with docu-style background to the sub-plot by showing tank battle footage from the Sinai desert and informs the audience about  of the factual nature of the film explaining that there was really an organization known as the Odessa that assisted former members of the infamous SS to reintegrate into society by providing them with false identities and backgrounds. Some of these former members of the SS were able to rise to occupy powerful positions within the infrastructure of German industry and were secretly plotting to continue with their masterplan to elimate the Jewish race by supplying Egypt with tele-guidance systems for guided missles to be used against Israel. It also informs us that a concentration camp at  Riga in Latvia really did exist that was commanded by an SS Captain by the name of Eduard Roshmann who was also known as "The Butcher Of Riga" by the few prisoners  who had survived it's horrors.

Contemporary Germany is then introduced by panning across the skyline of modern Hamburg ( ca. 1963 ). Free lance journalist Peter Miller is at the wheel of his late model Mercedes Benz sports car navigating the streets of Hamburg amidst the bustle of the festive season with Christmas decorations everywhere and Perry Como's Christmas Dream  playing on his car radio.  It is abruptly interrupted by a news bulletin anouncing the assasination of President Kennedey. Miller pulls over to the side of the road to focus on the broadcast, possibly envious of the media circus that is about to descend on Dallas, Texas. A voice over of Peter Miller narrarates the introduction to this intriguing story that is about to unfold as a result of a series of coincidences in journalistic style as an ambulance passes by his stationary car. He takes up chase and arrives at a scene in a run down section of town where an old man has commited suicide by gassing himself. He meets his friend Karl the chief of police at the scene who waives Miller off saying it's not worth a back page story. However,  Miller recieves a phone call from Karl the next morning inviting him to lunch. Over lunch Karl hands Miller a diary that was found in the old man's apartment thinking it might make good human interest story. Miller takes the diary home and reads it through the night becoming increasingly engrossed in it's contents which describe the old man's experiences in the notorious concentration camp in Riga, Latvia. A voice over in the person of the old man  introduces himself as Solomon Tauber and describes  in graphic detail the atrocities he experienced in the camp which was commanded by SS Captain Eduard Roschmann the sadistic " Butcher Of Riga". Black& white footage of concentration camp scenes bring the horrors to life for the viewer as Miller reads on despite pleas from his live-in girlfriend Sigi to come to bed.

Theseblack & white images sort of make you wonder where Steven Spielberg got some of his ideas for Schindler's List! 

By morning Miller has completed reading the diary and something in it has captured Miller's attention and with his reporter's instict he is compelled  to investigate further. Miller's mission has begun. He begins by making  inquiries into Tauber's background and finds out that Captain Roschmann is still alive and that this was one of the reasons why he took his life. Even from this early stage Miller is told by everyone from his friend Karl the police chief to his mother to drop it because nobody wants to be reminded of the nazis and their horrific deeds. He attends a secret rally of former SS veterans and gets his camera smashed and is beaten. He also identifies some of them as members of the Hamburg police department but his friend Karl still tells him to leave it alone. As he makes progress with his investigation a sinister subplot is introduced, that of the Odessa's masterplan to rise like a phoenix and continue on with their masterplan to eliminate the Jewish people and ultmately dominate the world with their superior ideals. Attempts are made by members of the Odessa to warn Miller off. He is told that Roshmann is dead, but one of Tauber's friends who Miller tracked down through the social benefits office had informed him that Tauber had seen Roshmann only two weeks before he took his life. The Odessa resort to more serious measures and Miller survives being pushed under a subway train while Christmas shopping with his girlfriend. But this is still not enough to thwart Miller and his determination to get to the bottom of this Odessa business. Gradually  we are led to believe that it is a bit more about a dead jew and a diary that is fuelling his obsession. The film reaches a turning point when he is intercepted by Israeli  MOSSAD agents who have been on to him. They are mystified about his interest in Captain  Eduard Roschman and after an interrogation they believe that his motives are genuine. They will help him infiltrate the Odessa in return for information  on guidance systems which are bound for Egypt to be used against Israel. Even though Miller has a marginal chance of success because he is a real German they explain to him that two previous attempts have been unsuccessful resulting in the death of two Israeli agents. This still does not disuade him and he is sent to a secret training facility in the Bavarian alps to be trained by a former SS man who has sided with the Israelis. He is given classroom training on the customs and traditions of the SS and is branded with an SS serial # to authenticate his new identity as a former member who has been discovered by the authorities.

Well I think I've told you too much already so in order to find out about how Miller completes his mission to bring Captain Roschmann to justice you'll have to watch the movie. What I will tell you is that the end has a poetic twist that cleverly unites the two sub-plots that blew me away the first time I saw it on that snowed in afternoon in high school. Mrs. Long was right on ! Hogan's Heroes was a bit more funnier though.

Silencing The Critics

The device used by director Ronald Neame that help make The Odessa File  such a compelling film is it's understatement using drab locations and sets. What also mkes it interesting is the multiple sets that are constantly changing as Miller's progress intensifies. It's very forward moving and doesn't doddle. It may drag a bit as some critics accuse but this is necessary in order to understand subsequent developments. It is called dialogue. The only lively part that occurs in the film is during the Rally attended by former SS men which is particularily effective because it depicts them as a band of brothers whose loyalty and bonding towards one another is what makes them so formidable and seemigly unstoppable. Peter Miller himself doesn't even crack a smile in the film even when Christmas shopping with his girlfriend Sigi played by English actress Mary Tamm ( Dr. Who ). Their apartment is even devoid of warmth and the only real emotion that occurs in the film other than Miller's driven compulsion occurs between Miller and Sigi who obviously are in unconditional love with one another.

Many critics of the film have complained that Miller's girlfriend Sigi wasn't necessary but I vehemently disagree. She is neccessary and reinforces the intensity of Miller's resolve to hunt down Roshmann even though his motive is not revealed until the nail-biting conclusion. Even when he is pushed underneath a subway train he tries to reassure her that it was just an accident and bashes on with his self-appointed role as lone wolf vindicator of the sinister schemes of the Odessa. If the guy's girlfriend isn't going to stop him nothing will. Her presence is integral to film inthat it provides the audience an outlet for some emotion amidst all the evil that is prtrayed by Roshmann and the murderous clowns behind the Odessa. She also acts as Miller's accomplice.

Another nitpick is about the film is how Miller obtains the diary. A chief of police would never give evidence in a case to a nosy reporter. Anything to do with the old dead jew is regarded as insignifigant early in the film by the athorities who don't want anything to do with their nazi past. This is more than established when Peter Miller arrives at the apartment where the old man has gassed himself at the beginning of the film. Karl passes on the diary to Miller as a friend thinking he'll just turn it into a trivial human interest story for the Komet news magazine.

From one coincidence to another ( actually more of a chain of events ) Peter Miller is able to advance to the next stage of his  investigation inching closer and closer to his main goal. One pivotal coincidence in the film is how he obtains the file itself which reveals the true identities of high placed government officials as well as members of the Hamburg Police force. He narrowly escapes being killed by an Odessa assasin which leads critics to question how an amatuer like Peter Miller can defeat a trained assassin. My answer to this is either:

a) The assassin was having one of those bad days that assassins sometimes have or

b) It's only a movie and the movie would have been over if Miller was killed off.

I'll go with both. Besides we know from the onset that Miller will survive because we have to know what compelled him to pursue Roshmann with such prejudice and this is only revealed at the conclusion of the fim.

Odessa File Music                                                             Great music goes with any great movie and the excellent music for the Odessa File is worth a gander. As far as I know it has not been released in CD format so keep an eye on the internet for a second hand vinyl copy. I would expect to pay about $25-$50 CAN for it. It was signifigant in that the music was composed and performed in part by Andrew Lloyd-Weber who was best known at the time for composing the music for the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Here's a link to a site that provides the album credits plus some original liner notes written by director Ronald Neame.

Odessa File Soundtrack Credits



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