May 14, 2020 · 4:01 pm
Balladeer’s Blog’s theme of Top Twenty lists for 2020 continues. With Memorial Day coming up in a few weeks let’s take a look at some servicemembers who died in assorted neglected Cold War hostilities.
APRIL 8th, 1950 – A U.S. Navy Privateer Electronic Intelligence aircraft was shot down by Soviet Union fighter planes over the Baltic Sea. All 10 crew members were either killed or captured by the Soviets with no further information ever becoming available.
NOVEMBER 6th, 1951 – A U.S. Navy Neptune patrol aircraft was fired upon by Soviet fighters off the coast of Siberia. The plane disappeared along with all 10 crew members.
JUNE 13th, 1952 – A U.S. Air Force Superfortress on a reconnaissance mission was reportedly attacked by Soviet fighters over the Sea of Japan and disappeared without a trace along with all 12 crew members.
OCTOBER 7th, 1952 – Another U.S. Air Force Superfortress encountered Soviet fighters off the coast of Japan and was presumed to have been shot down with 8 crewmen losing their lives.
NOVEMBER 29th, 1952 – A U.S. cargo plane was shot down over northeast China. Two crewmen died in the crash and were buried near the craft. The surviving pair – John Downey and Richard Fectau – were captured and imprisoned. Fectau was not returned to the U.S. until 1971 and Downey in 1973.
JANUARY 18th, 1953 – A U.S. Navy Neptune plane was shot down by Chinese anti-aircraft guns over the Formosa Strait off Swatow, China. It ditched, with 2 crew members presumed captured by the Chinese and 5 presumed dead. A U.S. Coast Guard “flying boat” crashed during the search for the downed crew, leaving 4 more men dead. Continue reading →
May 3, 2020 · 2:00 pm
One of the most popular topics here at Balladeer’s Blog is “Ancient” Science Fiction. That category covers science fiction stories – often very primitive – from the 1st Century A.D. up through about a hundred years ago. Here’s another list of twenty items for 2020.
THE Nth MAN (1920?)
Author: Homer Eon Flint
“Ancient” Kaiju! An enormous humanoid being with skin like turtle shells rises from the depths to rampage across the United States. The entity is intelligent and lays down political and economic ultimatums to the career politicians of Washington DC and to the plutocrats who pull their strings. Though the enormous Nth Man is told that his demands will be met, the tycoons betray him. They construct a high-tech army to try to kill the giant when he returns and the battle is on.
FOR MY REVIEW CLICK HERE
A MEXICAN MYSTERY (1888)
Author: W. Grove
An inventor in 1860s Mexico seeks favor with Emperor Maximilian by devising an actual “thinking” train engine complete with mechanical arms which allow it to function without humans manning it. The intelligent construct develops a predatory mentality, then goes on a wild killing spree throughout the country while outfighting its human foes at nearly every turn.
FOR MY REVIEW CLICK HERE Continue reading →
March 18, 2020 · 11:16 pm
Balladeer’s Blog’s theme of Top 20 lists for the year 2020 continues with this look at a score of James Garner films. NOTE: The Great Escape is not included, only because Garner was part of an ensemble cast in that movie.
Best remembered for his portrayal of slick-talking gambler/ gunslinger Brett Maverick and Westlake-esque private detective Jim Rockford, Garner inspired the term “marshmallow macho”. That description perfectly captured Garner’s special appeal.
For many American males James Garner and the characters he brought to life represented a happy medium between psychotically macho men and unbearably femmey men. I hate the term “role model” but for lack of a better choice that’s what we’ll go with.
In addition Garner served in the Korean War and won two Purple Hearts.
MAVERICK (1994) – Though James Garner was technically playing a supporting role to Mel Gibson in this film, Gibson was portraying Bret Maverick, the character Garner had turned into a sensation in the 1950s. Since this movie would not exist without the cultural cache built up by James’ portrayal of both Bret AND “Pappy” Beauregard Maverick (in old age makeup) this definitely counts as a Garner film.
NECESSARY SPOILER: The lawman character that Garner portrays in the film turns out to really be Pappy Maverick, with Mel Gibson’s Bret simply playing along with his father’s impersonation. FOR MY FULL-LENGTH REVIEW OF THIS FILM CLICK HERE
BARBARIANS AT THE GATE (1993) – In this telefilm based on the best-selling non-fiction book, Jim plays F. Ross Johnson, the real-life president of RJR-Nabisco who unleashed one of the most chaotic and frenzied leveraged buyouts in Wall Street history during the “greed is good” 1980s.
The real Ross Johnson was close with Warren Beatty and other major players in the entertainment industry, which may be why he gets painted in a less villainous light in the movie. (Being played by the ever-charming Garner certainly helps.) In reality FEWER jobs were lost by the ultimately triumphant Henry Kravis’ LBO plan than would have been lost if Johnson came out on top.
Teddy Forstmann, the lone Wall Street figure of the 80s who was a voice in the wilderness condemning LBOs and the damage they did to the economy, gets depicted as a virtual loon. Very odd, since Forstmann’s real-life views on LBOs were closer to the sentiments of Larry Gelbart and the others behind this flick than Johnson’s or Kravis’ were.
Ultimately Barbarians at the Gate is a dark comedy classic, it’s true, but read the book if you want the real low-down on the eventful RJR-Nabisco buyout. Continue reading →