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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that his beloved Nationals’ season has ended in another first round playoff humiliation, Ol’ Robbo has turned his attention back to his Netflix movie queue.   By happenstance, over the last few days I’ve seen a couple of new-to-me movies, my quick thoughts on which I offer for your consideration:

“Hell To Eternity” (1960):  Evidently based on the real-life story of Guy Gabaldon, it tells the tale of a young boy orphaned in East Los Angeles by the Depression who is adopted by an immigrant Japanese family.  When WWII breaks out, Guy joins the Marines, and because of his bilingualism, is instrumental in capturing numerous prisoners during the American invasion of Saipan.

The movie’s kind of uneven.  The early yoot set up is a bit hokey, and there’s a long Hawaiian shore-leave section that goes absolutely nowhere.  On the other hand, the emphasis on America as a melting pot instead of a (Balkanized, poisonous) fruit salad is very good (although the movie doesn’t duck the thorny issue of Japanese internment camps), and the scene in which Guy gets his adopted mother’s blessing to go fight Imperial Japanese troops is pretty moving.  Also, there are some good close-quarter ground combat scenes.

Jeffrey Hunter, who I suppose I ought to know but don’t, plays Guy.  Most of the rest of the cast is fairly unremarkable, but I chuckled over the fact that one of Guy’s brothers is played by a young George “Oh, My!” Takei. (UPDATE: As lynx-eyed commenters note, yes, I do know Hunter a bit, even if I didn’t realize it.  Shoulda checked IMDB first, I suppose.  Turns out he also had a bit part in “The Longest Day”, but then, who didn’t?)

The Bounty” (1984):  Another retelling of the mutiny by Fletcher Christian and a large part of the crew of HMAV Bounty against the harsh Captain Bligh.  A source I usually trust had dismissed this movie as historickally accurate, but not very entertaining.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to disagree strongly with the latter half of this assessment: Ol’ Robbo thought the movie very well done, indeed, with gorgeous camera work, intelligent period detail, and a plot that hummed along at a very good pace.

Anthony Hopkins gets Bligh’s difficult personality down nicely.  And Mel Gibson plays Christian (accurately and very well) as something of a ne’er-do-well who simply goes native in Tahiti.  (As an aside, what is it with Mel’s need to indulge in on-screen masochism in every single one of his films?  In this one, we see a shot of him having a gasping conversation with Hopkins while having a very large tattoo pounded into his lower back.)  The film also features such heavy-weights as Olivier, Edward Fox, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Liam Neeson.

One of Ol’ Robbo’s pet peeves is the unwarranted maligning of Captain Bligh in popular culture, largely due to Charles Laughton’s entertaining but damn near libelous caricature of him (“MIS-tuh CHRIS-tian!”) in the old 1935 version, with Clarke Gable playing Christian as the noble hero.  Bah!

Incidentally, one of Ol’ Robbo’s favorite authors, George MacDonald Fraser, wrote a book called The Hollywood History of the World:  From One Million Years B.C. to Apocalypse Now, in which he discusses Tinseltown’s treatment of various historickal epochs: The Ancient World: Knights and Barbarians: Tudors and Sea-Dogs: Romance and Royalty: Rule, Britannia; New World, Old West; and, The Violent [20th] Century.  Ol’ Robbo, rereading this book, recently had the brilliant idea to flip through the index and add every single reference available to his Netflix queue.  I’ve now got about eighty films marked down, many of which I haven’t seen before.  I’ll post my thoughts on them as I work my way through much the same way as I’ve done here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Ol’ Robbo is off to watch an old favorite of an “historickal” film, that classic Errol Flynn swashbuckler, “The Sea Hawk” (1940).  Dashing English buccaneers and eeeevil Spanish Dons.  What more could one want?  Oh, and Flora Robson, as Good Queen Bess, is a perfect example of someone who nobody could honestly say is physically beautiful, but nonetheless carries herself with a spirit and a humor that she is  downright attractive.  (Yes, “she has a great personality” is an ugly-covering cliché, but there is a great deal of truth in it, as I’m sure most, if not all, friends of the decanter have discovered from personal experience.  If you don’t understand, you’re probably too young to be sipping port here anyway, so vamoose! )



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