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Les rivières pourpres (2018)
Improbable French cop drama
The actors are cool, the set stylish but only in France would this series fly. German aristocrats who've ruled a region for centuries choosing to speak French to French cops? Never going to happen even if they spoke fluent French. Likewise French cops investigating the murders of Germans in Germany, the German cops are never going to speak French just to please some French cops who are investigating the first German murdered who happened to be murdered in France - protocol would dictate that the visiting French police would at least try and speak German and if they can't then probably both would revert to English as a common language.
Only in France would an audience shrug their shoulders at a plot line where the pretty French detective sleeps with the senior allocated German detective AND the senior French detective sleeps with a primary suspect all in one episode!. Casual sex is de rigueur in France but even there, this is stretching it.
Finally a French cop taking the initiative to attack a surrounded suspect's property against all protocols of the German police oversight - I know that French police write their own rules but never would a French cop take the initiative to attack the suspect's home against all protocols of the German police oversight - the French would never be so loose in prim and proper rules-bound Germany.
All these silly improbabilities swamp an intriguing story line in the first double episode. Much as I love French shows and I'm trying to learn the language, I'm unfraid I've given up.
Good look at the Pony Express
This was a TV movie made at a time when Western's were popular and of course the brief 18 months of the Pony Express' existence didn't stop it becoming immortalized in American culture as part of the taming of the West. The movie also portrays the time honored theme of the boy-to-man transition featuring 15 year old Peter Lundy (Leif Garrett) straining to break free from his gruff and unyielding father Jethro Lundy (Mitchell Ryan). When the Pony Express recruiters come to the small Nebraska town near where the Lundy's run a Trading Post, young Peter, already an accomplished horseman, is goaded by older boys into trying out and makes the grade!
The movie covers some key attributes of the Pony Express: the Christian values of key founder Alexander Majors who gave each recruited rider a bible and had them sign a clean living pledge, the target recruits were to be "thin, wiry, not over 18, preferably an orphan, fearless and a good rider" and the unheard of pay of $25 a month, fabulous pay for a teenage boy at the time.
It's a good movie with some poignant moments but it's hard to get past the fact that Leif Garrett was likely given the lead role of Peter Lundy because of his rapidly emerging teen hearthrob status. Garrett is actually a halfway decent actor but how many 15 year old frontier boys in the mid 19th century wondered around with shoulder length hair and with a shirt opened 2/3rd of the way down? Garrett did all his own horsemanship work in the movie and so he clearly knew or learned how to ride well but all through the movie, you can't get past impression that the director was trying to preserve Leif's teen mag pin-up look than have him really be immersed in what was an interesting character. An example of the absurdity of the casting is a scene where son asks dad for his old cut throat razor as he claims he needs to shave and yet 15 year old Leif Garrett's voice hasn't even changed and he looked like he won't need a razor for a couple of years. Putting his trademark blond locks into a ponytail and braids did little to age him. Yes young thin riders were targeted but having such an androgynous lead actor does little to give this Western much gravitas despite the good story line.
Ode to Billy Joe (1976)
Moral paradoxes of 1950's rural Mississippi
Ode to Billy Joe attempts to answer the hypothetical question raised in Bobby Gentry's 1967 No. 1 hit song of the same name, namely why did Tallahatchie County teenage boy Billie Joe McAllister commit suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie bridge.
What unfolds is an intense, frank look at the inconsistent morals of early 1950's life amongst poor white families in the Mississippi Delta. The movie was shot in Tallahatchie County in the summer of 1975 and accurately portrays how hard life was in the rural deep south: outhouse toilets, many houses with no electricity, some families still using a horse and cart to get around, the powerful influence of the local Baptist church and preacher in the community and the seemingly ubiquitous polite but strict courting rituals often honored in the breach. Examples of this abound: fine upstanding pillars of the community like the Sheriff who not only turns a blind eye to the carload of out of county hookers who show up to service the married men at the local Jamboree but avails himself of their services. Eligible church going young men that every mother wants their oh-so-young teenage daughter to marry but admitting to sending out of town a girl whom he had a fling with for an abortion all the while seeming to adhere to strict anti-abortion beliefs.
In this morass of contradictions the movie explores the budding romance of 18 year old Billie Joe McAllister (played by 19 year old Robby Benson) and 15 year old Bobby Lee Hartley (played by 20 year old Glynnis O'Connor). This was the second of three love story movies starring the pair (Jeremy in 1973 and Our Town in 1977). Billy Joe is a simple, handsome, happy boy working in a local lumber yard who falls for the shy but pretty Bobby Lee. He tries a number of times to formally court Bobby Lee but she is torn between intense physical attraction to Billy Joe and caution instilled by the social mores of the time and place and the knowledge that her father would object to the courtship due to her youth. Billy Joe is clearly head over heels in love and, in the absence of formal recognition of their courtship by Bobby Lee's parents, he puts increasing pressure on Bobby Lee to consummate their love secretly as appears to be common amongst his peers. Bobby Lee again is torn but will still roll in the hay and passionately kiss her beau.
The movie takes a dark turn when Billy Joe disappears for a few days after a large community Jamboree where he gets drunk on moonshine liquor put into beer bottles. Bobby Lee finds him at their favorite make out spot by the lake in a disheveled and distraught state. He seems inconsolable because he begins to own up to gay sex with a man and that he is now unworthy of her. At first he is coy enough for Bobby Lee's naivete to not allow the magnitude of what he says to sink in. He wants to prove his true love for her by meeting her on the Tallahatchie bridge where he says they will go away and make love. Bobby Lee resolves to meet Billy Joe for this purpose casting aside the caution instilled in her.
In the most poignant scene of the movie, Billy Joe begins to tell her what happened and then runs with her into the forest where they embrace passionately, and Bobby Lee gives him the green light to go all the way, but Billy Lee can only go so far and he pulls back distraught and admits to the homosexual encounter.
Having seen a number of Robby Benson movies before Ode to Billy Joe, in my opinion, his performance as Billy Joe is his finest performance. He portrays the innocence of youth and the passion of young love perfectly but what makes his performance stand out is portraying on camera, perhaps for the first time in US movie history, the unbearable shame that he carried as a consequence of the repressive but hypocritical customs of the day over homosexuality. Bobby Lee tries to will this awful event away, but it has clearly torn Billy Joe's life apart. It is a truly heart rending and powerful performance and it is no surprise that the movie gave massive impetus to his already rising reputation as a teenage heartthrob.
Glynnis O'Connor is equally powerful as Bobby Lee portraying teenage girl coming-of-age dilemmas in this era of the deep south but eventually she displays a surprisingly mature and nuanced appreciation of the impact of Billy Joe's suicide. She chooses to leave town and not refute the widespread rumor that the suicide was because he shamed his and her families by impregnating her at such a young age. Her understanding extends to meeting the older man who appears to have initiated the sexual encounter with Billy Joe (his boss Dewey Barksdale played by James Best) by trying to dissuade him from his stated mission of owning up to her parents as to the real reason why Billy Joe jumped.
It is a great movie, full of the complexities and hypocrisies of life back then and played out against a realistic geographical and cultural backdrop. Illustrative of an age when sexually explicit scenes were rarer and more frowned upon, it is nice to see such a delicate subject covered without nudity and explicit sexual scenes. Yes - in the modern era the sexual encounter would be out in the open and covered as a ho hum, no big deal event but this 1970's movie is able to convey the incredible emotional conundrum Billy Joe found himself in because that was reality of life back then.
One on One (1977)
Determined freshman college basketball player defies his antagonistic coaches
How many popular teen heartthrob actors co-wrote a sports movie script about college basketball with their Dad, got the lead role in the movie and is so good at basketball that he doesn't need a double? The answer is probably only one and that was Robby Benson.
Robby stars as a short (5' 11" is short by basketball standards) but fast and feisty high school wunderkind called Henry Steele from a small town in Colorado who scores a full ride scholarship to Western University in LA replete with all the excess inducements like a sports car, sellable tickets and cash in an era before stricter NCAA enforcement. Henry arrives to start his freshmen season with the kind of doe-eyed innocence and gentle down home naïveté that characterized a number of roles Benson had previously played. Pretty soon he's thrown in the deep end of the seedier side of college professional sport including bribes, corruption, sexual favors, coach bullying, performance enhancing drugs and wild parties.
The WU Coach Smith is played brilliantly by GD Spradlen who is an amalgam of every hard assed demanding sports coach imaginable. He reacts negatively to Henry's hot dogging playing style and tries to force him to give up his scholarship. Here Benson assumes a familiar coming-of-age gritty determination that was a feature in many of the more than half dozen roles he played as a teenager as he refuses to be broken by the coaches. At first Benson's baby face looks and height well shorter than his fellow players means he looks like literally a boy amongst men (despite being 20 when the movie was filmed) but Benson's never-say-die attitude and his obvious intense athleticism gives an edge of realism to the intensity of the college basketball scenes and the realities of the bullying he faced.
The budding romance between Henry and his senior aged tutor Janet (ably played by Annette O'Toole) gives the movie a very touching and sweet counterbalance to the coaches' attempts to drive Henry out. At first Henry seems destined to be a typical jock in Janet's eyes but quickly he proves to be a more genuine scholar than Janet is used thus gradually endearing him to her. One of the movie's best acted scenes is a tutoring session in the presence of Janet's current professor boyfriend, an anti sport cynic, where Henry not only won't take the jock stereotyping lying down but he almost comes to blows with the man who held thrall over the woman he is falling for. His feisty determination to stand his ground leads Janet to dump the professor for her eager, younger pupil.
One on One also offers a real blast down a 1970's memory lane with tight flared pants, huge collars on flowery shirts and basketball shorts that were SHORT. Final bits of trivia: 19 year old Melanie Griffith makes an endearing cameo appearance and this movie was the first of three sporting movies Benson starred in, all with pretty demanding physical roles but throughout these roles, he nursed a shortness of breath due to a faulty aortic heart value eventually necessitating open heart surgery undertaken in his late 20's that effectively ended Benson's storied career in front of the camera.
The Death of Richie (1977)
Realistic portrayal of teen drug addiction
The Death of Ritchie tells the true story of the sad death of 17 year old Ritchie Werner in the 1970's. This was a made for TV movie and was a brave even brutally realistic portrayal of the emotional turmoil in families with a drug using teenager.
Having lived with a drug using younger brother and then doing volunteer work in the field of adolescent substance abuse, the twists and turns of this story are sadly all too familiar. Drug treatment protocols and interventions have progressed since the 70's so it was frustrating to see the system not coping enough to get Ritchie the help he needed.
The three lead actors: Ben Gazzara as the father Ben Werner and Eileen Brennan as mother Carol Werner and Robby Benson as Ritchie were superb. Having been a frequent witness to the many and varied desperate attempts that parents make to get their child off drugs, I think that Gazzara and Brennan did a fabulous job in portraying the massive roller coaster ride and the sheer desperation that parents feel in these situations.
Robby Benson had already played a string of quite emotionally intense roles as a teenager (Jory, Jeremy, Death Be Not Proud and his most famous being Ode to Billy Joe) but his performance as Ritchie was worthy of an Oscar nomination had this been a big screen movie as he portrays all of the powerful and complex conflicted emotions at play with a boy stuck where he ended up. Addicts often cycle between manic good behavior patches where they try and be clean and then they relapse and crash. In one of those clean positive phases, Ritchie sells raffle tickets to almost everyone he meets in a mall parking lot. Benson excellently portrays the gangly awkwardness of that age and the energy that only really excited and focused teenage boys can put out. Benson played a ton of roles in the '70's where girls easily fell for his doe eyed sensitive charm so it took some acting for a dreamboat kid to play someone who struggled to talk to girls.
Robby Benson by then was a big teen idol courtesy of dazzling eyes, model quality looks and not inconsiderable athleticism (that was on display in a string of movies after Ritchie) but he never could break through with lead roles in big movies because he seemed to have been pigeonholed as just a heartthrob. His performance in Ritchie was akin to Leonardo deCaprio's breakout role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape from which he springboarded to a string of A list roles.
Running Brave (1983)
Magnificent inspirational true story
Running Brave is the true story of Olympic runner Billy Mills who rose from obscurity on the Lakota Indian reservation in Pine Ridge, SD to win the gold medal of the 10,000 meters race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Mills' journey takes many difficult twists and turns as he tries to thread a complicated needle meshing success in the white man's world and yet not forsaking culture and family. He is recruited into Kansas University's prestigious athletics program under leading coach Bill Easton but faces various forms of discrimination. Billy reaches a crossroads in his running where he retreats back to the Res to find himself and he later resumes his training after graduation as an officer in the Marine Corps.
The story of his miraculous come-from-behind victory is the stuff of Olympic legend. No other American has won a gold medal in that event everand it has never been won by a non-European.
Having working closely with Native Americans for some years, I feel that this movie very accurately portrays a number of the complex issues that they face.
Robby Benson was perfectly cast for this role. Aside from the fact that he cut his teeth in five movies as a teenager where he played sensitive but intense roles, what is less known is that he is a tremendous athlete in his own right, carrying off the intense college basketball scenes in One on One without a double. Benson's wiry athletic frame, his southern European looking dark olive skin and his natural athleticism made for an uncanny resemblance to the real Billy Mills.
In 1984, just before he was a torch bearer at the Los Angeles Olympics, NBC did a "This is your Life" show for Billy Mills with various family members and other key people such as his former coach and teammates at Kansas. The last guest was Robbie Benson who revealed that he and Billy had become very close friends as a consequence of their close collaboration over the movie. This shows in Benson's powerful re-creation of this great chapter in American sporting history.
The Chosen (1981)
Fascinating insight of Jewish life in immediate post-WW2 New York
The Chosen was a real sleeper. It is an excellent exposition of a fascinating subject, that of the broad differences between the various sects of Judaism and how post WW2 era American Jews dealt with the post-Holocaust era and the formation of the State of Israel.
These fault lines are well crafted by the four lead actors in this movie. After a pick up baseball game of high school boys in Brooklyn, NY near the end of the war, an unusual friendship emerges between two senior aged boys Reuven Malter (Barry Miller) a liberal Jew whose father is a renowned liberal intellectual Professor David Malter (Maximilian Schell) and Danny Saunders (Robby Benson) a Hasidic Jew whose father Reb Saunders (Rod Steiger) is a strict rabbi. Prof Malter is a passionate Zionist who very publicly supports the formation of Israel and Rabbi Reb opposes this on fundamentalist grounds. There is a most fascinating plot twist where Danny, sheltered by Hasidic strict practices and expected to follow his father as a rabbi, dreams of a career as a psychologist as a consequence of being secretly mentored by Reuven's father into the world of more secular learning. As the unlikely friendship blossoms, each boys' loyalty to their fathers and each other is sorely tested. Some of the most poignant moments are of the age old challenge of teenagers coming of age, spreading their wings and leaving the nest in conflict with parental expectations. Both boys end up on paths different than one would initially envisage.
Schell and Steiger put in fantastic performances. Miller was at the peak of his popularity after starring in Fame whereas Robby Benson was a famous 1970's teen heart throb and this was an uncharacteristically serious role that he carried off well especially compared to the movies he had more recently starred in that seem calculated to cash in on his telegenic looks and physique.
There are deficiencies. When you cast 20-somethings as teenagers you lose some authenticity and the movie makes little attempt to age the boys from high school to finishing college but in totality, the four lead actors relate brilliantly and the movie is compelling and enjoyable.
Death Be Not Proud (1975)
Robby Benson shines in this powerful true story
A beautiful moving TV movie adaptation of famous writer John Gunther's book "Death Be Not Proud" chronicling the sad but brave story of the death of his 17 year old son John Jr to a brain tumor in 1947.
There is no holding back from issues such as the guilt of a glamorous, famous, world travel author of sending his only son to elite boarding schools and rarely visiting only to have his and his ex-wife's life upended trying to do everything they could through numerous surgeries and treatments to save their boy's life. The final scenes are particularly moving.
Central to the power of this movie is the sensitive and poignant performance of Robby Benson as John Jr. By the late 70's Benson's dazzling blue eyes and model quality looks brought him teen idol status where he starred in a number of movies of a strongly athletic flavor (One on One, Ice Castles and Running Brave) but his fame was ironically built on a string of emotional, intense adolescent drama roles when he was still in his teens (Jory, Jeremy and Ode to Billy Joe). His performance in Death Be Not Proud helped cement his reputation for such roles whereas later roles seemed calculated to exploit his good looks and athleticism.
Anyone who has watched a loved one die from cancer (as I have) will be moved by this wonderful movie.
Teen actor debut adds unique twist to this Western
"Jory" follows the fortunes of the 15 year old son (named Jory) of a down-on-his-luck drunkard lawyer trying to restart life in the tough western frontier. It begins dramatically with Jory orphaned on the first night after a bar fight because his father played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the bar piano with Jory later fighting and killing the drunken killer of his father. Jory is then forced to grow up fast as a cowboy joining a horse drive to Texas and then protecting the rancher's teenage daughter.
What is interesting about this western is that the 15 year old lead happens to be the major screen acting debut of '70's teen idol Robby Benson whose claim to fame was as a blue eyed pretty boy with model quality features, a kind of lankier, more tanned 1970's version of Justin Bieber! Benson later became famous for doe eyed, whispy voiced sensitive roles and you certainly see the beginning of this in Jory and at first glance, Benson seems to be altogether the wrong type of actor for this rugged boy-to-man story but he actually carries it off very well. This is partly because he's the same age as his character and that is rare in modern films where the norm is young looking 20+ year olds acting in mid teen roles, in much the same way Logan Lehman brought similar realism to his role in "3:10 to Yuma", another boy forced to grow up fast Western.
Benson as Jory actually gives this movie a unique flavor for what would ordinarily be just a pretty run of the mill Western of the type so common in the 70's.
Great portrayal of adolescent first love
"Jeremy" is a most endearing and realistic teen love story filmed in early 70's New York featuring a musically talented but shy high school sophomore Jeremy Jones who falls for a junior who is an intense new student and ballet dancer Susan Rollins. It is by no means a barnstormer, more a gentle fly-on-the-wall but yet extremely accurate look at all the awkwardness and agonies of adolescent first love. Almost anyone over the age of 14 could relate to the faltering, tentative attempts Jeremy makes to meet and then go out with the girl he falls for.
What I really like about this movie is the fact that the lead actors (Robby Benson as Jeremy and Glynnis O'Connor as Susan) are the exact same age as their characters. This gives a compelling sense of realism to their blossoming relationship. Too many movies today cast young looking 20+ actors as mid teenagers who may look the age they are cast for but they bring an unrealistic edge of emotional maturity and poise that comes after traversing adolescence. Benson in particular realistically portrays how a 15/16 year old boy approaches his first real love affair because he was that age AND he and O'Connor were an item off set at the time so that gives some realism to the later love scenes. Benson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer for his performance in "Jeremy" being only his second lead acting role.
The movie features a few odd scenes given the shy character of Jeremy that clearly demonstrate that the director must've wanted to cash in on Robby's then emerging status as a teenage heartthrob by showcasing his famous model quality physical attributes. You can't blame the producers for wanting to get as many teenage girls to view their movie! Of additional interest is that Benson sings the title song at the beginning of the movie "The Hourglass". Benson sung a number of songs for movies he acted in and enjoyed a brief period of separate relative fame in his early 20's as a folk singer, a feat rarely matched by other teen idol movie actors.
Benson went on to star in well received roles in "Ode to Billy Joe" (where he again took the co-lead acting role with O'Connor) and "Ice Castles" but he was unable to expand beyond his teen idol status into more serious critically acclaimed roles in his 20's.
Lean on Pete (2017)
Stunning solo performance
Don't be beguiled by the title - this is not a dreamy, soft boy-meets-horse flick, it is a gritty examination of the slow descent of 15 year old Charley into the most bleak and desperate of situations.The movie highlights the fragility of family stability for a solo parent and a single child when, for whatever reason, that parent is no longer on the scene.
The movie has a slow start. Charley, intrigued by the local race track in Portland where he and his Dad have just moved, ends up working for a cynical horse trainer called Dell (Steve Buscemi). Gradually Charley bonds with Dell's least wanted horse "Lean on Pete" and, at a crucial juncture, in an adolescent burst of impetuous protectiveness, flees with Pete in Dell's truck to save him from the knacker's yard. Charley's journey across the arid scenery of central Oregon becomes more fraught and desperate until you can scarce think more tragedy could befall him.
This frankly was one of the most stunning acting performances by a teenage boy actor you will ever find. Many movies script young looking 19 - 23 year olds for a 15 year old's role. Charlie Plummer turned 17 during the filming and so his performance has complete and total adolescent authenticity. He is the most compelling actor and conveyed the gradual quiet desperation with the minimum of talking, something very common with 15 year old boys, with mostly facial expressions and perfect body language. Plummer's performance was reminiscent of a similarly aged Leonardo de Caprio in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and he marries model quality looks with Oscar quality acting so he should have a great career ahead of him.
This movie is a sleeper and will leave you pretty emotional at the very end.
War, loyalty and early adolescent love
These are the three important themes of this fantastic movie. Set in occupied Holland it begins with the bonding of two boys aged 12 or 13. The stars of the movie are Tuur and his friend Lambert. Their boys' retreat is a secret cave.
As happens in early adolescence, Tuur starts to better see and more deeply question the complex world around him. He sees his best friend's family collaborating with the Nazis and being bullied for this and then learns by following the furtive actions of his father and older brother, that they are assisting the Dutch Resistance. He witnesses families being arrested and deported to camps in Germany for harboring Jews.
Into this increasingly messy world tainted by the war steps Maartje, a pretty but shy girl who says her parents are recuperating in the south of Holland. Initially Maartje takes a fancy to Lambert who wants her to join the activities thus far the preserve of just the boys. Tuur is resentful at first but then develops a crush on Maartje. Pretty soon he only wants to hang out with her and not Lambert and Lambert feels rejected and left out.
Maartje gradually reveals more serious secrets to Tuur: first that her adopted family house an illegal pig hidden from the German occupiers but, more explosively, that she is actually a Jewish girl called Tamar and that her parents were taken away to what she was told was a labor camp. Tuur tells Tamar of his family's clandestine resistance activities. They swear each other to secrecy.
As happens when puppy love suddenly competes with what was hitherto a boys only world, Lambert becomes jealous of the time Tuur and Maartje are spending together and catches them playing in a barn with the illegal pig. Thinking only of his being spurned by his long time friend for a girl, Lambert advises his father who in turn tells the Germans who arrest the family, find a hidden box of photos with the evidence of Maartje's true identity which in turn leads to her arrest for deportation.
Tuur cycles frantically to the town where Tamar is interned in time to see her being loaded onto a truck for deportation to a concentration camp. In one of the most poignant moments of the movie, Tuur breaks through German soldiers to throw a carved stone representation of an Olympic gold medal at Tamar, a gift he had been making for her as she is being hauled off to German incarceration sobbing with the realization of what her fate will be.
Lambert realizes his single revelation has led to the imprisonment of his two best friends. Lambert persuades his German sympathizing father to release Tuur and Tuur arrives home just as his family's activities as resistance supporters are revealed and in a dramatic climax, the family escape to the cave only to be assisted by Lambert (who has joined the Dutch Hitler Youth to please his Nazi loving father) with flashlights and food to enable them to navigate a labyrinth of tunnels to escape to Belgium.
There is a beautifully poignant moment of emotional embrace when the temporarily estranged friends unite in this dangerous act of assistance and departure as Lambert gives Tuur the box of Tamar's photos.
This movie handles explosive issues of how people coped in occupied territories (collaborating versus secretly opposing), the issue of how Jews were treated and those who house them all through the eyes of children emerging into adolescence and the poignancy of first love against the horrors of betrayal and the omnipresent Germans and their campaign to root out Jews. The three child actors did a stunning job that really carries the movie; Maas Bronkhuyzen in particular as Tuur puts in a powerful performance. I recently had the privilege of meeting the director Dennis Bots. He said Maas (playing Tuur) and Joes (playing Lambert) were so good as actors that they did that incredibly moving scene in only one take after Dennis explained to them what he wanted. The tension in the movie builds gradually and climaxes with powerful even tear jerking scenes!
Flipper: Bud Minds Baby (1965)
Handling a runaway
A young girl sleeping in the back of her parents convertible is tired of them arguing over the mother's modeling career so whilst they are getting gas near Coral Key, she sneaks into the Ricks' camper to run away.
Bud is making a raft with a sail and he and Sandy get into a brothers teasing session (Sandy mocks the makeshift raft and Bud mocks Sandy's singing). Sandy and Porter head into town and the girl comes out and persuades Bud that she's an orphan and to go sailing on the raft. The raft quickly falls apart, they swim with a life jacket to a buoy and climb in but the lid closes and locks them in.
Sandy finds the girl's scarf just at the time that Porter hears from the police about the missing girl and they embark on a search for the pair in the launch. Trouble is Bud encouraged Flipper to stay away so Flipper can't guide Sandy and Porter. Bud and the girl sway the buoy and make noise to try and attract attention. Flipper hears the banging and sees the unusual motion and then Porter and Sandy see the weird motion of the buoy and rescue the pair.
Parents and child are reunited - the runaway stunt persuades the mother to give up going to Key West to model.
Flipper: The Call of the Dolphin (1965)
Flipper stays loyal to the boys
In this episode Flipper's loyalty is sorely tested by the presence of a marine biologist Dr Kellwin testing the impact of recorded dolphin calls from his mini sub. Flipper is attracted to the sounds broadcast underwater via external speakers and follows the sub curious to find other dolphins. Bud had fallen off his wooden raft under a pier and was swept away to sea and was surprised when Flipper did not come to his rescue when called. Whilst Porter and Sandy are excited to test their new underwater TV camera, Bud is brooding because Flipper is gone. It is when they are out testing the camera in the launch that they find Dr Kellwin's mini sub and he tells them of his experiments. When Porter asks that he not lure Flipper away, Kellwin wants Flipper to choose and of course Flipper follows the sounds from the sub.
The boys are devastated - Bud can't concentrate to catch Sandy's football passes. Porter discusses about the day when Sandy grows up and leaves home but how he and Bud will still be friends. That night after Porter is in bed, the boys sneak out in their pajamas and manage to attract Flipper home with the auto horn and pen him but next morning, when the recordings are played again, Flipper jumps the pen fence and follows the sub.
The boys go searching in the skiff and underwater until Sandy is stung by a jelly fish and can't even lift himself into the skiff. Bud is frantic and thinks that Flipper is still distracted by the sub and the recordings but in reality, he beings the sub to where the skiff is and Dr Kellwin is able to get Sandy aboard and radio Porter for help. Dr Kellwin concludes that there are some communications beyond the simple sound of the dolphin and the bond between Flipper and the boys overrode his curiosity in following the sounds from the sub which of course makes the boys happy.
Funny line: Sandy suggests that maybe the reason why Flipper has not come home was because he found a girl dolphin to which Bud responds like any pre-adolescent child "he wouldn't desert me for a girl" and Sandy and Porter smile knowing that Bud doesn't yet understand about male female physical attraction yet!
Flipper: Whale Ahoy (1966)
Bud's wild imagination
Unfortunately this is one of the silliest episodes. Sandy leaves for his job helping the fishermen and encourages Bud to surprise Porter and his teacher by actually finishing an assignment on time. In this instance it is a book report on "Moby Dick" Bud dozes off reading the book in the skiff and awakes to find himself face to face with an old whaler Captain Peabody who then pursues an imaginary pod of whales. Whilst the whale footage is stunning, the story line drags on with the whaler repeatedly urging Bud ever closer only for Bud to tackle the whaler out of the skiff to avoid him harpooning the gray whale.
There's footage of Sandy fishing and Porter checking buoys with the Coastguard and Bud meanwhile Bud's whale dream continues with a moral lecture from Bud about saving whales because of a baby and he enlists Flipper's help causing Peabody to threaten to kill Flipper causing Bud to finally wake up. Bud realizes he's out of gas but conveniently Porter is flying overhead in the float plane. Bud is caught fishing in the skiff and not doing chores and Porter radios to Sandy at the dock to rescue Bud. Bud works so hard on his report that Porter lets him swim with Flipper who then must rescue the "Moby Dick" book that falls into the water. An oddball disjointed episode.
Flipper: Flipper and the Bounty (1965)
This was a kind of a weird episode. Sandy and Bud are out on the dock and next thing Bud sees a replica sailing ship called the Bounty and Sandy doesn't believe him accusing him of 'identifying' until he too sees it though the binoculars. They tell Porter and they race out in the launch. This episode features the launch racing across pretty rough waters to the point where it is almost jumping out of the water.
They meet the captain who explains they are on a global tour before docking permanently in St Petersburg, FL. Bud wants to go on board but the captain declines citing ongoing renovation work on board. Porter takes the captain and two crew ashore to get supplies.
Meanwhile inquisitiveness gets the better of Bud and he gets Flipper to tow him out to the Bounty and he climbs aboard. After finding the Commander's cabin Bud falls asleep in a chair with a replica Captain Bligh hat on and dreams of adventures aboard. Meanwhile the captain returns and sets sail for the Canary Islands and Bud realizes he's trapped in the cabin and he breaks a window and sends Flipper to help.
Porter and Sand race to the Bounty and rescue Bud but he still persists in fantasizing on the way home thinking Ulla's mini sub is the Nautilus! Porter and Sandy say they'll have to monitor the books he reads!
Flipper: Flipper's Treasure (1965)
Crooked treasure hunter
Flipper flips to Bud a coral encrusted old antique knife and guides him to a sunken treasure chest. Bud excitedly tells Porter and Sandy but he's told to leave it alone because a 'scientist' Dr. James has come with supposed credentials to hunt for sunken treasure that he says he'll donate to a Coral Key museum. Porter enlists the support of the local diving school students who search the Coral Key underwater park but find very little. The scientist is really a treasure hunter with faked credentials who uses this as a ruse to find the treasure chest that Bud found.
Flipper is on to this man and splashes him at the dock and gets in the way as he breaks into the old chest and removes valuable goblets and jewelry. He then hides the treasure in mangroves in the estuary but for a few less valuable items and reports to Porter and Sandy that is was a disappointing venture. Bud expresses skepticism based on Flipper's adverse reaction. James is trying to retrieve his stolen loot and Flipper follows him and then persuades Bud to follow him only to catch James red handed. James tries to deal to Bud but Bud manages to pull his fuel cord preventing his escape and Flipper nose butts the boat over and Flipper prevents him from getting ashore to get Bud in time for Porter to arrive and catch him red handed as it turns out that Porter got a wire from the real Dr. James saying his credentials had been stolen.
Flipper: The Firing Line: Part 2 (1967)
The Navy is a poor shot!
This review is of both parts of this 2 part episode. Porter leaves the boys alone for a few days while he attends to various errands allowing them to open his mail. They find a government check that says "Termination Pay" and they assume their dad has been fired so they set about on a quest to find him another job before he returns only they claim it's for a 'friend'. After speaking to several people they finally speak to a naval officer who thinks the Commander at the base across the bay would be interested so the boys set out to cross the naval gunnery range as a short cut to meet the Commander before he heads home. Sandy assumes there is no gun practice due to it being a Saturday.
Meanwhile Porter ends up at a remote end of the Park investigating wildlife issues with a younger ranger only to end up rescuing the younger ranger caught in quicksand. Porter has uneasiness about the boys but doesn't know why until they drive the skiff right in the middle of salvos of shells. The engine is hit making it impossible for them to escape so they hide behind a concrete buoy in the skiff as best they can shelter from the explosions. Porter meanwhile returns home to find no boys and a big care package from friends concerned at his supposed plight. The boys cower soaking wet trapped in the skiff. Flipper dives deep to avoid the explosions and Porter searches in vain until he's told by sympathetic locals that the boys headed to the naval base. Porter realizes that they may have gone through the gunnery range and he goes into the shell barrage after them after he remembers the radio is being repaired. The boys decide to get Flipper out of the water due to possible concussion and they haul him aboard..as if he'd be safer in the boat.
Porter defies all odds and is never hit and the navy seem unable to pick up anything the size of a large launch on their radar - both things highly improbable. What saves the day is Porter using tin foil attached to a fishing pole to attract the navy's attention and the Ricks can all escape in the launch. Turns out the "termination" phrase on the check was a computer malfunction - it meant to read "vacation"!
3 bits of Trivia: 1 - The Dolphin Testing Lab in part 1 does a sonar experiment by putting rubber cups on a dolphins eyes to see if they can use sonar only to navigate replicating a similar experiment that Ivan Tors the producer of both Flipper movies and the TV series did. 2 - Flipper's trainer Ric O'Barry was an occasional stunt stand in for Luke Halpin and he (and another double for Bud) takes the one scene where the navy guns are blowing up the targets as the skiffs navigates through. 3 - In the last scene the boys are all dry despite being soaked a few minutes earlier - scene continuity was not checked as the journey across the bay in the cloudy weather would not have dried them out.
Flipper: The Lobster Trap (1966)
Bud saves Flipper!
You read the headline correctly - surprising after all the times Flipper rescues Bud! Bud catches some high school boys poaching for lobster and they threaten to derail Sandy's campaign to be Student Body President with nasty talk if Bud tells Porter of their illegal activity.
However Bud's conscience gets the better of him after he sees his Dad destroy another poacher's trap that he found and, after seeing the lengths Sandy is going to to get elected (painting a bunch of signs), he seems to guess that Sandy can win despite the other boys' threat. Porter meanwhile is watching a demolition crew make strips of gelignite to blast rocks for a new causeway. Bud decides to head out to where the boys laid their traps but they see Bud heading that direction in the skiff and chase him.
Bud brings one trap to the surface and sends Flipper into an underwater cave to retrieve the other just as the boys arrive to confront Bud. None of them knew that the cave was near the area of coral being blasted and an explosion sends rocks falling trapping Flipper in the cave. Bud pleads with the boys to help him move the rocks but they escape fearing prosecution for the illegal traps. Bud races home and breathlessly tells Porter a confusing summary of what happened and they race in the launch to rescue Flipper against the rising tide that will seal off the air pocket in the cave and drown him.
Porter dives and wraps a rope around the largest rock and Bud guns the launch engines hauling enough rock away to free Flipper. Porter has the boys paint his house instead of a prosecution for poaching.
This episode features some superb underwater cinematography especially the shot of Flipper escaping the cave as a small gap is opened up by the removal of the boulder. Best line of the show: Sandy is hailed by the poaching now painting boys as the successful winner of the election and views the painting work and says "If its good enough for Abe Lincoln to split rails when he was President, its good enough for me to help paint"!
Lost in a canal
This episode was a little different. It begins with Bud putting on a great show at a Scout Camporee - he has Flipper harnessed and has him tow him around on his big Mal surf board and ends with a headstand on said board much to the rapturous applause of the other scouts. Porter and Ulla are watching admiringly and Bud ends up travelling home in Ulla's old pickup as Porter had to get back to oversee the opening of water gates for several irrigation canals.
Bud wins a canteen as first place and he and his red haired young friend Stevie also travels with Ulla. Ulla takes a shortcut at Stevie's suggestion down the Slingshot Road but a mad rush of deer crosses the dirt road and Ulla looses control and the pickup careens into the irrigation canal knocking Bud out cold when he hit the windshield.
The local power company engineer closes off the road and drives down it to make sure it's clear before releasing the wall of water but fails to see the crashed pickup as he is distracted and fails to see them.
Flipper senses the danger and takes Bud's canteen and persuades Sandy something is up. Seeing the canteen Porter decides they need to follow Flipper in the launch and they rescue the three after navigating the launch up the narrow canal before the wall water would've drowned them.
Two cool moments: The scouts form two lines in the water and Flipper tail walks through the two lines - very cleverly done. While trapped and frightened, Ulla sings a beautiful Swedish folk song to calm the boys!
Weirdest horse theft in history
Sandy is away on a camp-out so this is one of only three episodes in the entire series not to feature Luke Halpin. Bud is playing with Flipper when a visiting kid (Stevie) rides past on a famous show horse horse (Grey Boy) that was injured and is being walked in salt water to aid in healing the injury. In the bushes are thieves waiting to steal the valuable horse. While Stevie sits in Bud's row boat watching Bud do tricks with Flipper, the thieves take the horse.
Bud swims and runs after them but they put the horse on a barge and set off across the lagoon but Bud manages to jump on board just as they sail away. Flipper shadows the barge while Stevie goes to get Porter who gets the Coast Guard on the case as well. Flipper distracts the thieves and Bud pushes Grey Boy into the water and then jumps in after him. Bud guides the horse to swim towards land and Flipper is sent to get Porter. In a scene that just would never get broadcast in the modern age with paranoia about things religious, Stevie prays for Bud whilst Porter is searching.
An obligatory shark is sighted and of course Flipper saves the day by dispatching the shark and Porter rescues the horse and Bud. This oddball episode ends with a 'who can do the silliest trick' competition between Grey Boy and Flipper. The horse downs a bottle of coke and there is archive footage from Season 1 "Flipper and the Elephant" of Flipper doing tricks. Cut down jeans shorts must have been fashionable in 1965 because Stevie has a pair as well!
Profound, powerful - a groundbreaking view of coming of age
Richard Linklater tackles the challenges of coming of age in a groundbreaking unique way; he casts a boy at 6 and films a story of a fictitious family once a year every year for 12 years. In the case of the boy Mason, the movie begins when he is in 1st grade and ends as he travels to his freshman year of college. Novice actor Ellar Coltrane spent 4 days every summer from aged 7 to 19 being filmed as he grew up in real time. This technique profoundly and powerfully impacts on the movie resulting in one of cinema's most unique and powerful productions.
By Coltrane's own admission, Linklater chose him at aged 6 mostly because his parents were cool (father an artist mother a dancer). Coltrane grew up in a relatively unstructured Austin, TX artistic home being mostly home schooled and so he brings that package of interesting life experiences to his character. If you are after some amalgam of a middle class, suburban, football-playing, mall-going typical American teenage boy then Mason is not your thing.
"Boyhood" gives us a microscopic view of the messy world of divorce, the family blending from new relationships and the impact of poor relationship choices on kids. By casting Patricia Arquette as Mason's mother, Ethan Hawke as his estranged father and Linklater's daughter Lorelei as Mason's sister Sam and keeping this cast intact for 12 years, the whole movie has an almost documentary feel to it because of the raw realness of the subject matter and the acting. Linklater had no set script and so the stories (and even the actors' lines) were hashed out between the production team and the actors just days before each annual shoot. This gives the movie a breathtaking realism complete with all the warts that you can imagine arising from the mother's 2nd and 3rd marriages being to alcoholics whilst she pursues a second career training to become a college teacher.
Coltrane's performance is simply phenomenal. As he transitions into adolescence, various parts of the complex developmental tapestry of that crucial life phase are tackled with a realism rare in Hollywood. The acne, bullying, peer pressure and the crazy haircuts and clothing choices of teenagers all are there but so is the deepening introspection and emerging world view as the teenager transitions to adulthood. Coltrane carefully and thoughtfully gives the audience a window into his own adolescent journey by portraying the maturing Mason in a way that just cannot be shown in regular movies that usually portray a journey this long with the usual technique; that of having perhaps 3 actors portray the same character as they make the boy to man transition.
Because divorce, remarriage and blended family variants have become such a common feature of modern life, "Boyhood" addresses the various complex issues of this tricky subject magnificently. I sincerely hope that this movie is recognized appropriately at the 2015 Oscars because it is right up there in the upper echelon of incredible and memorable movies.
Sword of Gideon (1986)
Inside look at how Mossad operates - way better than "Munich"
The story of how Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, ordered the systematic revenge killing of all the Palestinians who planned and executed the PLO massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972 is the stuff of legend. This movie brings the legend alive and in a tighter, more gripping and better acted way that Spielberg's "Munich" did. Stephen Bauer, as the lead agent Avner recruited from the army by a senior Mossad officer, is more convincing than the doubt-ridden Eric Bana.
A transfixing moment of the movie is the meeting Avna has with the IDF Chief of Staff and the Mossad Chief with PM Meir. With the nation of Israel hurting from the tragedy of the Olympic massacre, she sums up the dilemma of Israel and of the travails of the Jewish State as it seeks to exist surrounded by hostile enemies. Her steely resolve to extract full revenge for what the PLO is rendered excellently by Colleen Dewhurst.
Whilst the "Sword of Gideon" tracks some of the actual killings, it portrays the dangerous life of a secret agent doing work of this nature. The movie is made more realistic by superb attention to location detail (made easier than "Munich" by being filmed only 15 years after the events). The camaraderie of the team of assassins is disrupted by the loss of various of the team. The movie explores the devastating emotional impact of both the loss of colleagues but of the brutality required to shoot or blow up the enemy. It also explores the complex motivations of people who do such work with particular attention paid to Avner's attempts to leave his assignment and the lengths his Mossad handler went to emotionally blackmail him to stay working for them.
One comes away with an appreciation for the enormous task Israel faces. The moral dilemma of ensuring only terrorists are killed and the operational mantra to avoid collateral casualties at all costs versus the indiscriminate killing undertaken by the terrorist targets highlights the tightrope Israel must and continues to walk. It cannot allow acts of terror to go unmet as its enemies must know they will fight and fight hard, but in a world increasingly hostile to Israel's existence and the way it fights, it must exercise its considerable power and intelligence expertise with caution. The SOG shows this attitude has been front and center in Israeli operational planning for decades.
This is a two part episode. Porter and Sandy are battening down the launch for a tropical storm and learn after it passes from Flipper that a man was caught in the storm in a skiff. This man turns out to be a bank robber who has buried $10,000's in cash in sand on a beach and feigns injury when Porter and Sandy show up. They take him to their home where he calls his brother (who is complicit in the crime) to come and get him. All seems innocent to Porter until he gets an RT call to be on the lookout for the criminals prompting the robber to pull a gun on Porter and Sandy.
Bud returns from fishing and is able to send Flipper for help before being forced into his home to sit and wait with Porter and Sandy for the robber's brother to come down from Miami. Flipper tries to attract the attention of boat owners, one who calls in to Porter and Porter is forced at gun point to say nothing. Finally Flipper interferes with a fish haul that causes an old fisherman to lose his catch. Angered he and his son head to Coral Key to tell Porter and they arrive just as the robber returns from retrieving the cash from the beach enabling Porter to tackle him into the water and the fisherman's son to do the same to the fleeing brother.
Small detail point - the brother is coming from Miami in a reasonably fast boat that Porter estimates will take 3 hours to get to Coral Key implying that the fictional Coral Key is right at the end of the Keys when in reality in several episodes the skyline of Miami is seen in the distance because the show was shot at Key Biscayne just south of Miami.
The end of Flipper
With this 2 part episode, so comes to an end a franchise that began in 1962 with the filming of the first Flipper movie. Only Luke Halpin as Sandy Ricks remained as a constant through the two movies and three seasons of the TV show from 1962 to 1966.
At the start of the 2 parter we see the fate of Sandy and Bud- Sandy accepted to the Coastguard Academy at New London, CT and Bud at a reform school in Boston, MA arranged by Aunt Martha. Bud is reluctant to go because no one will look after Flipper.
Sandy stumbles on a family buying then doing up the local marine supplies store. Recently widowed Fran Whiteman from Dayton, OH is trying to clean the store and Sandy offers to help. Meanwhile Flipper befriends her 12 year old son Dirk and the 9 year old daughter Liz. The kids go off and explore with Flipper and end up rowing across the lagoon in a leaky boat that they are only just able to swim to shore before it almost sinks. Because they showed interest in the Everglades, everyone assumes that is where they are and so Porter sets up a search pattern involving the Coastguard helicopter and he and Bud in the air-boat while Sandy mans a portable radio at the marine store with Mrs. Whitman.
The kids of course are not in the Everglades and failure to find them has everyone frantic. Sandy tries to reassure Mrs. Whitman that his Dad and Flipper will find her kids and he tries to persuade her to stay in FL as this incident is causing her to want to return to Ohio.
It takes some teamwork between the Whitman's dog and Flipper to finally reach Porter and Bud on the edge of the Everglades and guide them to where the kids really are. They attempt to resurrect the boat with a shirt as a plug but the boat is soon swamped and surrounded by sharks just as Porter and Bud, now in the launch, rescue Dirk and Liz before they finally sink.
The series ends with Sandy and Bud in their trademark just cut off blue jeans reminiscing about Flipper and about how Flipper's new friends will look after him.
These episodes illustrate clearly some of the reasons why NBC did not agree to a fourth season. Luke Halpin is almost 20 and the dialog with Mrs. Whitman is clearly that of a young adult - his demeanor, knowledge and body language is no longer that of a kid just finishing high school. NBC had been able to use Luke Halpin as the 15 - 18 year old Sandy Ricks despite the fact that he was 17 when the TV series first started because he was so young looking for his age. By the end of the 3rd season, that was no longer the case. With Tommy Norden the opposite happened - they had cast him as a 10 year old in Season 1 so by the end of Season 3 he was supposed to be 13. Norden was almost 15 but, unlike Halpin, by 15 he was almost full adult size and indeed by the end of the series was more solidly built than Halpin who was 5 years older than him. Series 3 plots for Bud were written for a 12/13 year old but executed by a kid who looked 16 - that wasn't working all that well and it was one of several reasons why Season 3's ratings were so poor compared to the first two Seasons.
There was talk of giving Flipper even more abilities and having the Whitman kids replacing Sandy and Bud as Flipper's best friends but nothing came of it so after two popular movies and 88 TV episodes, the story of the boy and the dolphin came to an end.