What do you get when you put a bunch of convicts on an island? A lot of dead convicts.
Before Escape from New York there was Terminal Island. And before Terminal Island there was, well, we aren't sure. Maybe The Big Bird Cage or She Devils in Chains. Released in June 1973, and eventually making it to Denmark today in 1977, you see the Danish promo poster for Kvindefængslet på Djævleøen, aka Terminal Island above. The movie stars Don Marshall, Marta Kristen, Barbara Leigh, Ena Hartman, and cult fave Phyllis Davis, plus it features both Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley, a duo that would later be cast as besties Thomas Magnum and T.C. on the television show Magnum P.I. What's the plot? It follows the expected blueprint—tough convicts left to fend for themselves except for the occasional supply drop, women in mortal peril from every inhabitant with a functioning dick, and one good-hearted prisoner who doesn't belong there at all. The whole set-up degenerates into a savage confrontation between two opposing factions, predictably fighting over the possession of women, who can only hope to choose between abusers and protectors. While Terminal Island is an early entry in the fertile penal colony genre, what you really want to know is whether it's actually any good, right? Well, let's just say it's good enough to watch if you're a fan of seventies b-movies. We'd like to offer you a better endorsement, but we really can't.
A priest, a cop, and a heroin addict walk into The Mist...
Last night we watched the sixth episode of Spike Television's horror serial The Mist, and though we weren't going to weigh in on the show, we got frustrated enough to bang out this write-up labeling it what it is—a disappointment. Which is too bad, because the Stephen King novella sourced for the series might be the best thing he ever wrote. It's hard to know where to begin discussing the show, so we'll start not with that, but with its medium. Television has changed. Where the real talent once gravitated toward cinema, today some of the best conceptualizing and writing is on television, as top creatives are driven to the small screen because movie studios are almost wholly focused on puerile superhero movies and juvenile comedies. Television is where The Wire, Game of Thrones, and Fargo made indelible marks on American culture. Hell, we can even go back to The Sopranos for an early example. The point is you have to bring your A-game.
But the creator of The Mist, Danish writer-director Christian Torpe, took one of Stephen King's best works, adapted it to a medium that is incredibly receptive to serialized horror, and blew it. King is credited as a writer on all ten episodes, but that's only a nod to him as the originator of the source material. He wasn't involved in the new teleplays, and they're spectacularly botched, put together by the worst kind of horror writers—those who force the characters to serve the convolutions of the plot rather than their own need for self preservation.
We'll give you an example. When a priest and a ’60s flower child disagree on whether the mist is sent by God or is a manifestation of Nature-with-a-capital-N, they decide to both walk into it to see which of them is spared. This is a mist filled with creatures that have caused the most painful deaths imaginable, but ho hum, they have a spiritual pissing match they need to settle, so into it they go, and a group of bystanders allows this lunacy to occur without raising an objection. Maybe next time they're at the zoo they can leap into the lion enclosure to see whether razor sharp claws and fangs are God or Nature.
In another example of the same terrible writing, a group stuck in a mall comes up with a set of rules to ration food and keep order. That's fine. The punishment for breaking any of the rules is expulsion from the mall. That's not fine. That's a sentence of death for even minor infractions, and this has been agreed upon by characters isolated for only a day or two, far too little time to go full Lord of the Flies. Under those circumstances virtually any normal person would say, “No, we don't agree that expulsion from the mall is a fair punishment, and if you get anywhere near us we're going to use a three wood from Dick's Sporting Goods on your cranium.” Those disinclined toward violence would perhaps say, “You know what—this mall is massive, so you have your crazy old testament punishment zone here, and we'll just hang out in the Cinnabon at the far end.”
Another issue with The Mist is that the characters are diverse in unrealistic and manipulative ways. See if this sounds like the beginning of a joke to you: there's a priest, a cop, a heroin addict, a jock, a hippie, and a bully. In the best television shows the characters are very much the same when you meet them, but their differences manifest over time because of who they are inside—not due to the uniforms they wear. In The Mist the cop wears a uniform and the priest wears a different uniform and the solider wears a still different uniform, but no less obvious are the uniforms worn by the flower child (sun dress and pants), the gay kid (eyeliner), the heroin addict (sweat), and the good girl (virginal white skin). Even many of the minor characters are written as clichés. Compare that to a show like The Walking Dead. In season one what is the difference between the two major characters Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh? There is none, except one is duplicitous and one is honorable. What is the main difference between Rick and Carol? It's not their sex. It's that she's more easily capable of cruelty for what she feels is right. What is the difference between Carol and Morgan? It isn't their skin. It's that he abhors lethal violence and has to come to grips with its necessity. Their differences are internal, and watching them revealed is one of the joys of the show. But in The Mist the uniforms—literal and figurative—are there to do the work the writers were too lazy to manage.
Basically, there are no genuine surprises in the way The Mist's characters develop. The cop becomes an authoritarian but later seems to climb down from total assholery. The priest at first seems reasonable but eventually decides he must impose his faith on others. The heroin addict clings to worldly pursuits like money and being high, but later decides she needs to kick. She does this, by the way, in a sequence bracketed by a standoff and fight elsewhere in the building. She'd said the process of medically assisted detox would take five or six hours. As two characters elsewhere in the building argue, she's tied to a bed, where she sweats and screams, and is later untied, presumably five or six hours later. Then we cut back to the argument, which shortly turns into a fight. Did those two argue for five hours? It's the type of egregious timelime weirdness you see only in badly made shows, and it's symptomatic of the lack of deep thought behind The Mist. We stuck with it for more than half its ten episode run, but now we're giving up. It's clear the writers aren't going to overcome any of the show's problems in the next four episodes.
Can you get the ship's doctor for me? I seem to be stuck this way.
What is this yoga position called?
A: The Hidden Half Up.
B: A Flying Lotus.
C: The Gordian Knot.
D: A French Twist
Actually, it's none of those, though we think flying lotus is probably closest. Let's just say Danish singer Gitte Haenning is performing a little yoga on the deck of a cruise ship steaming its way to Mallorca in this photo made in 1977. We've been to Mallorca a few times, and on none of those occasions did we bother to exercise, so good on Gitte. Haenning's last name was difficult to pronounce, which led to her becoming a one-name star—just Gitte—in both music and cinema. All-in-all, amazing accomplishments for someone who spent so much of her time as a soft pretzel.
It's not like any circus you've ever seen.
The Hottest Show in Town was originally released in Sweden in 1974 as Sex-Cirkusse, and just as promised by the Japanese poster art above, you get a circus, a hot one, populated by assorted acrobats, aerialists, and clowns, some nude, some not. You also see people hook up, explicitly, which is really the entire point of this production. These bits earned the film an x rating, as well as some controversy caused by a sex sequence involving a very small man and a very small woman—aka dwarves. This isn't particularly shocking today. Or is it? Certainly dwarves are more mainstream now. Game of Thrones even features the horniest little person in entertainment history, so we're guessing Sex-Cirkusse's dwarf sex won't bother you. We could be wrong. But dwarves, clowns, and aerialists are all a sideshow. The real star of the movie is the lovely Danish actress Anna Bie Warburg, seen below in her bushy altogether, a bold image we couldn't resist sharing. We guess the general thrust of the film is that all the world's a circus and all its denizens merely players. Really horny ones. The Hottest Show in Town premiered in Japan today in 1976.
The ballad of Gwili the kid.
Gwili Andre's, née Gurli Andresen's seven-film Hollywood career wasn't what you'd call significant, but this photo certainly makes the Danish born actress look like a top star. We love the stage name Gwili. It's inspired. However, we gather that her acting generated some savage reviews. The above photo was shot in 1932 by famed lensman Ernest Bachrach early in Andre's career.
Enquirer cover model makes a de-emancipation proclamation.
Pictured on this cover of National Enquirer from today in 1963 is Helle Wingsoe, who was a Miss Denmark titleholder from the 1950s who later appeared in numerous American magazines as both herself and as Annette Casir. At least, that's the rundown online sources give, and the internet never gets it wrong, right? Wrong. A Finnish hosted database of European pageant winners lists no Miss Denmark named Helle Wingsoe. We also checked out the other winners from the 1950s and none of them seem to be Wingsoe either. So that bit's wrong. Enquirer calls Wingsoe an actress but she accumulated no credits in any film productions, so that appears to be incorrect as well, though it's almost certain she aspired to be an actress. Maybe she had a few uncredited walk-ons. And lastly, we have doubts she's aka Annette Casir. Look at this photo (try to focus on the face, people), and compare it to the one below, which shows Wingsoe a bit more clearly. Are those the same person? Really hard to say, but we're dubious. Oh, and we almost forgot—we doubt she ever said she wanted to be some man's slave. Seriously, who would say something that ridiculous? But the bold text would have been pure catnip for the then-predominantly male readership of Enquirer. Anybody out there got better info on Wingsoe/Casir? Drop us a line. We'd love to know.
Cryptid hunters gather for weekend of fundraising and wild speculation.
Today marks the beginning of The Weird Weekend, one of the largest annual gatherings of cryptid aficionados and animal investigators in the world. For the seventeenth year Nessie nuts, Bigfoot boosters, and chupacabra champions descend on North Devon, England, to discuss the existence of hypothesized and legendary creatures.
This year's speakers include punk rock star Steve Ignorant on the hidden history of Punch and Judy, Richard Freeman, director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, on his recent expedition to Tasmania in search of the thylacine or Tasmanian wolf, and Lars Thomas from Denmark, on the Vikings' pantheon of mythical—or were they?—creatures. The weekend informs the public and serves the dual purpose of raising funds for the CFZ, which conducts searches for mystery animals.
We would absolutely love to go to this event, but we just got back from vacation. Maybe you're stuck at home too. Try this. Go to your nearest bar and order:
A chupacabra: Jack Daniel's, Chartreuse herbal liqueur, José Cuervo, Blue Curaçao, and grenadine.
A Jersey Devil: cranberry juice, apple cider, and Applejack brandy.
A devil dog: José Cuervo and grapefruit juice.
A Loch Ness Monster: Midori, Bailey's, and Jägermeister.
A bat beast: gold rum and Monster Energy drink.
A frozen Yeti: raspberry vodka, orange rum, Blue Curaçao, triple sec, grapefruit juice, and of course lots of ice.
Drink all of those and you'll discover there's a cryptid in your stomach. Have your camera ready when it emerges.
You're going to like my movies or else. Now sit down and shut up.
Ann Smyrner was born in Denmark as Hanne Smyrner and came to wide attention for roles in cheeseball films such as Reptilicus and Journey to the Seventh Planet. The above photo was made when she filmed yet another cheeseball film—the 1967 Italian flop ...4 ..3 ..2 ..1 ...morte, aka Mission Stardust. These movies call out to us based on their titles alone, so we'll attempt to locate one or two and report back. They sound epically bad. Smyrner, on the other hand, looks epically good.
It must be jelly ’cuz jam don’t shake like that.
We got curious about Nai Bonet, who we’d never heard of until last week, and after taking a stroll around the internet discovered she was pretty famous in her day and even released a 1966 single for which you see the sleeve above. The song is called “Jelly Belly,” with “The Seventh Veil” on the flipside. Bonet teaches fans to do her trademark Jelly Belly dance, which we can only imagine led to many sprained backs in mid-century America. But maybe you want to try. The instructions are in like Danish, but here’s the gist:
1: Clap your hands together and gently bow…
2: Put your hands over your head and I’ll show you how…
3: First you inhale (pull your tummy in)
4: Then you exhale (push your tummy out)
5: Hips go up…
6: …and down
7: Tummy round and round…
8: Shoulders shivering…
9: Everything a-quivering.
And presumably it's rinse and repeat at that point. For extra inspiration you can hear "Jelly Belly" here. Just remember—if you pull something, rest it, apply ice, and dream up a much better story about your injury than you were trying to get everything a-quivering.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
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