Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Without looking it up, I believe it was Chesterton who said something to the effect that insanity could be defined as repeatedly doing exactly the same thing but expecting different results.  Ol’ Robbo found himself thinking about this as he watched “Red Tails” on cable last evening.  It’s one of those movies I’ll generally stop on if I’m flipping through the teevee channels and can’t find anything else.

Somehow, each time I find myself hoping it’s better than I remember it being.  After all, the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII are a noble and uplifting subject.  And yet, every time I’m  disappointed anew.  The movie is just plain bad: cardboard characters, completely predictable and clichéd dialogue, and CGI Mustangs doing unpossible things.

A pity.

But maybe…just maybe….next time…….

Anyhoo a few notes on some other historickal movies that have come through my Netflix queue of late:

Drums Along the Mohawk” (1939)- Upstate New York settlers fighting off the Iroquois during the Revolutionary War.  It’s funny: I’ve seen this film probably three or four times, but couldn’t remember a single thing about it from previous viewings.  This time around I decided I really don’t care for it very much, despite the presence of the lovely and talented Claudette Colbert.  Too much “Ye Olde” about it, I guess.  Also, I’ve decided once and for all that the only costume genre Henry Fonda had any business being in was Westerns.  (I was reminded of his role as Pierre in that bizarre adaptation of “War and Peace“.  In speaking of Napoleon’s armies, even all dolled up as a Russian noble, he may as well have been talking of the Comanche.)

The Howards of Virginia” (1940) – Now this one was new to me and I actually quite liked it.  Another Revolutionary War film in which young up-and-coming frontiersman Cary Grant plucks Martha Scott out of Tidewater Society (under her brother Cedric Hardwicke’s nose) and builds her an estate out in the Shenandoah.  As the political situation collapses, trouble ensues.  It seemed Grant couldn’t decide whether to stick with an Irish accent or not, but otherwise I thought it a good story well acted.  (A lot of the exteriors were filmed at Colonial Williamsburg not long after it had been rescued and refurbished.)

Beau Geste” (1939)- With Gary Cooper in the title role.  I’ve been wanting to see this for years, and it was well worth it.  P.C. Wren’s convoluted story-lines and rich dialogue could never be completely replicated on the screen, but I thought the movie did a fine job in presenting the story.  (And on that front, I’ve now really got to track down “The Desert Song” and watch it.)

Ivanhoe” (1952)- The tale of knightly strife between Saxons and Normans under Wicked King John.  A pretty good  chain-mail story (although I confess I haven’t read Scott in years and years).  And how’d you like to be Robert Taylor  with a young Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Fontaine fighting over you!  Tough life, eh?  This film reminded me that I want to go back and have a look at the Anthony Andrews tee-vee version, which I haven’t seen in 35-odd years but have a vague recollection was pretty well done, too.

Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945) – I’ll tell you truly, friends – Ol’ Robbo could watch Claude Rains all day and every day.  And even though Vivian Leigh was quite off her rocker, she’s still mighty easy on the eyes.  (OTOH, I am now firmly convinced that Stewart Granger was nothing more than beefcake.  Even when playing the large-living Apollodorus, he couldn’t really act that much.)  Finally, while there are many things about Mr. G.B. Shaw which Ol’ Robbo finds objectionable, I will give it to the man that he wielded a mighty witty pen.

Oh, I’m also reminded that yesterday was the anniversary of the fall of the Alamo.  Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t noticed either of the major screen treatments running on cable this week.  (Perhaps they did when we were without power over the weekend.)  I haven’t seen the John Wayne version in years and need to toss it in the queue.  Of course, that was mostly the Dook being the Dook, but is that such a bad thing?  Some time fairly recently I also actually tried the 2004 version and was pleasantly surprised in that it wasn’t half as awful as I dreaded: I doubt seriously whether there was much room for Billy Bob Thornton’s ironic self-awareness on the frontier in 1836, but otherwise I thought it was a reasonably fair treatment.  (And yes, the real Col. Travis was something of a preening twit.)