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Major Mitchell

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Worst and Best Halloween Movies

October 30, 2017

Okay, the trick-or-treaters are gone and the candle inside the jack o’ lantern has been blown out. You’ve picked up the scattered candy wrappers and tucked the little ones in bed. Time to snuggle next to the wife or husband with a hot cup of chocolate or coffee and watch a good Halloween movie. Right? But you might not want to go to bed after watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something equally as bloody. Let me offer some suggestions.

 

Movies Not To Watch

(Unless you want a good laugh)

 

Eegah One night after shopping, Roxy Miller is driving through California’s Borrego Desert near Palm Springs, to a party. She nearly runs her car into Eegah, a giant caveman. Wait! It gets better. She tells her boyfriend, Tom Nelson, and her father, Robert Miller, about the giant. Her father, a writer of adventure books, decides to go into the desert to look for the creature and possibly take a picture. When he doesn’t arrive at his designated pick up time, Roxy and her boyfriend go looking for him.

Well, as we can guess, pretty Roxy is nabbed by Eegah and dragged back to his cave, where she is reunited with her father, who is unharmed, and trying to communicate with the caveman. Eegah starts to feel sort of amorous toward Roxy, (after all, he hasn’t seen a woman in how many years?) and while she’s scared of him, her sweet daddy urges her to play along with him as much as she can.

Roxy’s boyfriend soon arrives and somehow helps Roxy and her daddy escape. Eegah really gets ticked-off, and follows them to Palm Springs, where he is eventually shot and killed by a policeman. You’ll find yourself wiping a tear at the end … mostly from laughter.

Eegah was voted as one of The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, and was pronounced the worst by several critics. It has, however, become a cult classic, and appeared on Comedy Central and Mystery Science Theater.

 

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter is a low-budget western/horror film released in 1966. Jesse James has somehow survived being killed and rides into a small western town with his half-witted saddle pard. His plan is to join two other outlaws and rob an incoming stage of $10,000, they somehow know about. At the same time, Dr. Frankenstein’s evil granddaughter, Maria, has moved to the same area, to use the violent electrical storms to further her experiments of turning children they kidnap into slaves by removing their brains and replacing them with artificial ones.

The entire movie was shot in eight days, and I personally think it rates somewhere below Eegah for entertainment value. The film was featured in an episode of This Movie Sucks! I think that says it all.

 

Billy the Kid Versus Dracula Somehow, Dracula has arrived in the American west, and decides to make Billy the Kid’s fiancée his vampire wife. To do this, the Count poses as her uncle and wins her trust. Lucky for her a German immigrant couple comes to work for her, and sees through Count Dracula’s plot and warn her. She, of course, won’t listen to their warnings, so they tell Billy, but she won’t heed Billy’s warnings either.

Eventually, the Count kidnaps her and flees to an abandoned silver mine where he and Billy have the final showdown. Billy soon discovers that .45 cal bullets have no effect on a vampire. The Count subdues Billy, and sets out to transform sweet Betty into his vampire wife. The sheriff and country doctor arrive in the nick of time. The doctor hands Billy a scalpel and tells him he has to drive it through the vampire’s heart. (I always believed it had to be a wooden stake). In the end, Count Dracula dies, like he always does, and Billy takes sweet Betty away to live happily ever after.

This film was also shot in eight days and released with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. ‘Nuff said.

 

Movies You Want To Watch

(They Might Make You Grip Your Honey’s Hand)

 

Bedlam Starring Boris Karloff, Bedlam is loosely based on Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as Bedlam). The film focuses on the mistreatment of institutionalised mental patients. But what happens when a sane person is declared insane and cast into one of these places? Nell Bowen, protégé to Lord Mortimer, finds herself in that exact situation. What follows is nail-biting, while retribution comes quickly and is thorough.

While the film recorded a $40,000 loss on its release in1946, it has more than recouped the loss through DVD releases by Warner Bros., as part of a double release with Isle Of The Dead and a part of the Val Lewton Horror Collection. It also garners a healthy 89% approval rating in polls as well as three out of four stars from critic Leonard Maltin for the film’s atmosphere.

 

Isle Of The Dead When General Pherides visits his wife’s crypt and discovers it despoiled, he hears a woman singing. The problem is, the island is supposedly uninhabited. He sets out with several others to find her, but to no avail. They do, however, discover retired Swiss archeologist Dr. Aubrecht and his Greek housekeeper, Kyra. Also on the island are British diplomat Mr. St. Aubyn and his pale and sickly wife, their Greek companion Thea and English tinsmith, Andrew Robbins.

One by one, folks start dying. Fearing a plague of some sort, they quarantine the island. In an attempt to halt the spread of the deadly sickness, they begin burying their dead immediately, only to discover that at least one has been buried alive. Not only is she alive, she has somehow freed herself from the crypt. She’s also armed, totally insane and really, really pissed.

Starring Boris Karloff, the film was completed in December 1944 at a whopping cost of $246,000. On its release, Isle of The Dead only earned a $13,000 profit for RKO, but it was re-issued in 1953 on a double bill with Mighty Joe Young and made its TV debut in 1959. It has earned an 86% approval rating, and three stars out of four. Director Martin Scorsese placed Isle of The Dead on his list of the eleven scariest horror films of all time.

 

The Body Snatcher, also starring Boris Karloff, was one of three films he did with RKO Pictures, which were produced by Val Lewton. It was the last film to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together.

Mrs. Marsh visits the house of Dr. Wolfe (nicknamed Toddy) MacFarlane to seek a cure for her paraplegic daughter Georgina. MacFarlane suggests surgery for the girl, but insists he cannot perform the operation himself, due to his post as a teacher. In the meantime, his prized student, Donald Fettes, tells the doctor he cannot afford to continue his studies. MacFarlane offers Fettes a job as a lab assistant to help with the costs. He eventually relents and decides to help the girl.

Fettes soon discovers that John Gray, a cab driver, delivers fresh bodies from the graveyard to the school in the middle of the night, which Dr. MacFarlane uses in his teaching young surgeons. He makes it sound somehow noble, but MacFarlane soon finds himself an unwitting slave to John Gray. Gray soon runs out of fresh bodies, and decides to make one by nabbing a woman off the street. MacFarlane decides he needs to make John Gray a body, if he wants his freedom. Trouble is, John Gray doesn’t want to stay dead.

The Body Snatcher received an approval rating of 81% and happens to be one of my personal favorites. Now, it’s time to snuggle up next to your honey with your chocolate and enjoy. I should give a warning. Please put the mug down when you suspect something is gonna happen. Your honey might not want a bath of chocolate.

 

 

HABITS

January 21, 2017

 

Each of us form habits early in life. We learn quickly that certain behaviors will bring either a loving touch and smile from our parents, or it will quickly bring their wrath and displeasure. I grew up the youngest of eight children, and neither parent had time for childish fits of temper or pestering and whining. Such actions would never bring the desired result. Instead, they brought the wrath of mama quickly, in the form of a paddling on my behind or being sent into the bedroom, never to come out, until the warden working in the kitchen decided it was time.

The habits learned at that early age have benefited me through life. While working to support my family, I knew that the boss who had hired me, hired me for a reason. That reason was to make money. He had not hired me to pester him for raises, or whine because it was too hot or too cold (conditions that are common in construction). The fact was, if it happened to be hot or freezing cold, it was hot or freezing for everyone, and my whining was not going to benefit anyone. The bottom line was, if I refused to show up for work, or refused to complete the tasks given me, someone else would have to do the job. That meant the company lost money, and in reality, I wasn't needed. There was a saying among the American cowboys in the old west that said if you took a job, it didn't matter what the man was paying you, you worked as hard as you could every day, regardless; a standard that is seldom followed today.

It seems that many people think criticizing someone who has worked hard and sacrificed to build a business is somehow acceptable. Because someone has worked hard and been lucky enough to be successful, that does not mean he is cheating the public or is greedy and selfish. Some believe the company owner should be willing to give away his hard-earned money to people who have never worked for them, or provided a product or service the company uses.

In truth, most company owners work longer hours for less than most everyone working for them. I closed a company years ago, simply because I discovered I had averaged approximately $1.98 per hour the previous year, while paying my employees $15.00 per hour. This was after being in business several years. If everyone worked as hard as their boss, perhaps the company they work for would be able to hire more people or give raises to the existing employees.

The same goes for writing. Too many times an author will settle for a manuscript that is “just as good as,” instead of writing one that is “much better than.” Kaiser Permanente has the motto that “good enough isn't good enough.” Perhaps that is why they are the nation's largest health provider. As an author, I can testify that we've all been guilty of lazy writing, wanting to move on to the next story inside our head, then getting discouraged or complaining that the book hasn't sold as well as our previous one. Many of the books hailed as masterpieces were single books, where the author never wrote a second.

 Some of this, at least in my case, is due to life. We take on too much and get too busy. We need to create good writing habits. I wrote The Dońa at 4:00 am, a few pages at a time, before going to work. I wrote Mokelumne Gold locked inside a camp trailer, away from people and the telephone in the dead of winter. I haven't done so in recent years, but it’s a habit I should get back to. Not that we need to rise at 4:00 am every morning, but we do need to make time to write a few quality pages every day.

 

When I joined Western Writers of America I was privileged to learn from some excellent writers such as Elmer Kelton, who shared with me the message that it is hard work that wins the day.

A Christmas Blessing

December 23, 2016

I thought I would take a break from all the writing and publishing stuff I normally talk about, and share some observations about the holiday. With all the shopping and running here and there, we sometimes lose the joy and warmth that is supposed to go with Christmas. Sadly, children and spouses often get to open packages under a tree, but do not receive the most important gift of love. We spend money we do not have with plastic cards, then dread to look at the statement when it arrives in the mail. The Christmas season turns into a time of fear and loneliness, for many who have lost loved ones, or are faced with celebrating by themselves, due to broken families. In view of this, please let me share four little statements from the Bible that might help.

 

  1. In Luke chapter 1, verse 13, an angel tells Zacharias not to fear, because God has heard his prayers. We tend to forget the simple fact that God does hear our prayers, and He cares about us. He knows when you're lonely, hurting, or fearing the future. God does hear your prayers and cares about you.
  2. In Luke chapter 1, verse 30, the angel tells Mary not to be afraid, because she has found favor with God. I like the Phillips Translation of that verse which says, “God loves you dearly.” Soon, Mary was going to find that she was pregnant, even though she was a virgin. She was carrying the Son Of God, something that had to be overwhelming and fearful. But, in the midst of that, she could believe that God loved her dearly. He loves you too, just as much. He loves you enough to die for you.
  3. In Matthew chapter 1, verse 20, the angel tells Joseph not to fear, because the baby Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He could rest in the assurance that his soon to be bride was pure. That was a big order that required an actual heavenly messenger to appear physically. While none of us will ever have to face what Joseph faced, we can rest assured that God does love those we love, and even more so. He does hear us when we pray for them, and will take care of them. Perhaps not exactly the way we wished, but he does care for them better that we can.
  4. In Luke chapter 2, verse 10, the angel tells the shepherds not to be afraid, because he was there to tell them about a baby being born in Bethlehem, who would become the savior of the world. It is odd that he chose to tell shepherds, since they were normally over-looked as a lower class than others. But what a message! God doesn't care if your rich or poor, He doesn't care about the  color of your skin, or how educated you are. He still loves you dearly, just the way you are.

 

So this Christmas season, please remember, God loves you dearly.

    

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