MOVIE REVIEW: Panic in Year Zero! (1962)

Ah, the Good Old Days of the late 50s and early 60s…. The days of Civil Defense drills, fallout shelters, and missile gaps… When people lived in fear of nuclear war… With some justification, since the United States’ war strategy was essentially “Launch everything!” We wouldn’t see such paranoia again until the days of Ronald Reagan and his “Evil Empire” rhetoric. During the 80s, there were a number of films that tried to address what might actually happen to ordinary people in a nuclear war. Panic in Year Zero! was there first.

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Book Review: Hammer and Tickle

Hammer and Tickle: A History of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes
Ben Lewis
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2009

First off, this is the book version of a 2006 documentary about political humor in the Soviet Union. The nominal idea is to show the tightrope dance of those who dared criticize the regime through jokes. Just how much would you be allowed to get away with? Lewis interviews historians, archivists, and even some of those who actually made laughter at Communism’s expense. He even considers the possibility that some of it was allowed in order to defuse tensions amongst the people. If they are chuckling, they aren’t massing in the streets in protest. It’s a nice idea, but Lewis can’t seem to decide whether he’s writing a history or a joke book.

Lewis rather clumsily includes stories about his girlfriend, which detract from his narrative and weaken the overall work.

Oh well. At least there are the jokes:

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Dia de los Muertos

Because Halloween isn’t over until the dead have their day…

By the way, a tip of the warlock’s hat to all the other Cryptkeepers for sharing all their wonderful music, movie reviews, artwork, photography, commentary, and Halloween collectibles with us. It was a serious distraction at work checking in on everyone! I’d also like to thank everyone who stopped by here. I hope you will continue to do so – I’m hoping to be posting just as often during December for Christmas. And I am going to keep posting movie and book reviews, as well as my thoughts on baseball, and whatever else crosses my mind.

Vincent Price

Horror movies haven’t generally gotten any respect from the Oscars. Yeah, the Academy has tossed a handful of nominations to the genre over the years, but wins for anything other then technical matters have been few and far between. Back in 2010, they  attempted to make up for this with a montage of clips from classic horror movies. It was pretty decent – Jaws, The Blob, Nosferatu, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dracula, The Shining – but there was one colossal and unforgivable oversight….

Where was Vincent Price?

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The War of the Worlds – The Other Broadcasts

Orson Welles’ radio play based on H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is arguably the most famous radio program of all time. The Mercury Theater’s 1938 dramatization was so effective that people thought it was an actual news broadcast, and panic ensued. Though there is much debate over how widespread that panic was, it cannot be denied that many people thought that the Martians were actually invading. Wells at first claimed it was just an honest attempt at giving listeners an entertaining fright that got out of hand. Years later, he changed his tune to say that it was a deliberate attempt to show that people shouldn’t always take what they hear, see, or read in the media at face value.

If it indeed was an experiment in mass psychology, the results were dramatic. While a major principle in scientific research is that any experiment must be reproducible, it’s likely that no one would want to reproduce this particular experiment. After all, who wants to deliberately cause a panic? And given the notoriety of the original broadcast, any scientist or radio producer would be hard-pressed to find virgin ears on which to conduct a follow-up.

No one is going to fall for the same stunt twice, right?
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Movie Review: Ghostwatch (1992, UK)

The British make the best fake documentaries. There was the BBC’s “Spaghetti Harvest” of 1957 (which resulted in a flood of phone calls from people asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree), and “Alternative 3”, a show on Anglia TV in 1977 that purported to uncover a secret plan to set up bases on the Moon and Mars (which despite including easily disprovable “facts” and a cast listing at the end is still taken seriously by some conspiracy nuts).

Then there was Ghostwatch

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The World Series

The Fall Classic. No other team sport has anything like it. The Super Bowl? Started in 1967. Basketball? The NBA didn’t have a championship until 1950. The first World Cup? 1930. While I admit that the Stanley Cup can trace its roots back to the 1890s, the format for determining the championship of professional hockey didn’t take its current form until 1927, after the last rival league to the NHL folded. Baseball’s World Series debuted in 1903 (and if you’re going to be picky about the beginnings of the Stanley Cup, the first baseball “Championship of the United States” was in 1884). There’s well over a century of legends and lore.

The World Series magnifies everything. The great players are greater. Bob Gibson strikes out seventeen Red Sox. Reggie Jackson hits home runs on three straight pitches. The fielding is more amazing: Wille Mays. Ron Swoboda. Al Gionfriddo. Unheralded players turn into heroes: Howard Ehmke. Dusty Rhodes. Edgar Renteria. And the errors and mistakes (Fred Snodgrass, Bill Buckner) are more painful.

There’s been a heck of a lot of drama in the hundreds of World Series games. I’ve got a list of the eight most exciting (in my opinion) games; and it’s not your ordinary list…

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The Six Types of Zombie

Judging by movies and television, everyone loves a good zombie. The walking, or perhaps shambling, shuffling dead, or undead, if you prefer…. Things that look like human beings but aren’t, so you can beat the crap out of them without any pangs of conscience.

Having done a bit of reading on the topic, I have concluded that there are actually six distinctly different types of zombie.

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