Friday, August 31, 2012

"Marie" [PG-13] - Chapter Five

Civil War nurse Charlotte Evans uncovers a mystery at a Mississippi plantation during the middle of the war. 

* * * *


Chapter Five

The following day proved to be very busy. A calvary company had a brief skirmish with some rebel renegades that refused to accept the news of the Vicksburg surrender. They had been plaguing the countryside for the past two months. Because of this latest military action, Green Willows received new patients for its hospital.

My second shift ended around midnight. I felt extremely tired and anxious to crawl into bed. Miriam and I were downstairs helping Doctor Henson with the patients. Soon, it would be time for Alma, Alice and Doctor Anders to relieve us, thank God.

Doctor Henson decided he could not go on any further and retired to his quarters. I volunteered to make one last round of the patients and advised Miriam to follow the doctor's example. By four minutes after midnight, the relief team had not arrived, but I was too tired to wait for them any longer. I wanted to get some sleep.

A moonbeam streaked through one of the foyer's windows and lit up the staircase. Exhausted, I struggled to climb the winding staircase, one step at a time. As I reached the top, I heard the voice whisper in my ear again. "Garde," it said. Beware. I swerved around. No one seemed to be nearby. Dear God, not only was I tired, but I was hearing things as well. I had not taken three steps when I felt a pair of hands on my back as they shoved me forward. Terrified, I cried aloud and gripped the railing. Thankfully, I did the latter or I would have sailed right over the banister.

Breathless, I turned around and there stood Mrs. Scott, her narrow, pale face contorted with rage. She shrieked loudly and attacked me again. She grabbed my throat and arm and attempted to force me over. I was young, but I was also tired and she was in a state of rage and insanity.

"I won't let you take him away from me again! I won't, you hear!" Mrs. Scott screeched as her claws forced my body to arch over dangerously. My right foot was already off the floor and I my strength was ebbing away. Exhaustion and panic began to set in my mind as we continued to struggle. This is it, I thought. It was just a matter of time before I would fall to my death. I was in serious trouble.

"Mother!" It was Major Scott. Thank goodness! I felt Mrs. Scott's hands being forced away from my body.  "What in God's name do you think you're doing?"

Free from Mrs. Scott's grip, I slid to the floor, weak with exhaustion. Green Willow's matriarch now fought her son with maddened frenzy. "Let go of me! Let go! I've got to stop her before she takes you away from me!"

"Mother! Mother, stop it!" Mother and son continued to struggle. Then to my surprise, Mrs. Scott caught Green Willow's owner off guard and shoved him against the wall. Her eyes red with rage, she rushed me for the second time that night. Unfortunately, I was in no condition to fight her. Realizing I was in danger of being attacked again, I quickly stepped aside, as she made a grab for me. Finding no one to shove, Mrs. Scott fell over the banister with a shriek and slammed unto the floor.

Major Scott rushed downstairs. Ignoring my exhaustion, I quickly followed. Tears streamed down his cheeks, Major Scott knelt beside his mother's body as he murmured, "Mother" repeatedly. Marie's killer was dead.

* * * *

As it turned out, it was Miriam who had alerted Major Scott about his mother, not my screams. She had spot Mrs. Scott walking along the hall with a strange expression and rushed to the major's room.

The following afternoon, Doctors Anders and Henson helped Major Scott bury his mother next to her husband . . . the man she had loathed for so many years. The major informed the local sheriff that she had been sleepwalking, when she fell to her death. Everyone knew Deborah Raymond Scott had not been in her right mind since the war began. Perhaps even before.

For the next two days, I suspected that my friendly relations with Major Scott had ended with his mother's death. He spent the next two days in his room, in solitude. On the third morning, he finally came out and found me in a wicker chair on the second-floor piazza. He sat down in a chair beside me. I gave him the letter I had found a few days ago. He read it and looked completely stunned. "Uncle Brent and Marie?"

"Yes," I said with a nod.

"Considering how much you look like Marie, no wonder Mother went after you. And Uncle Brent . . . is my real father? I cannot believe it." He paused for a moment. "On second thought, perhaps I can. Mama and Daddy could barely tolerate each other. I used to see him heading for the slave quarters all the time."

Realizing that the good major may be revealing some very private matters about his family, I gave the impression that his words had not shocked or embarrased me. The circumstances surrounding his mother's death, along with these new revelations, seemed to have made him less discreet than he would usually have been. "Have you ever seen your mother and . . . uncle together?"

"No," Major Scott replied with a shake of his head. "But Uncle Brent used to hang around Marie and me a lot. I even remember Mama being upset that day when he got engaged to that Miss Spaulding." He paused dramatically, before adding in a small voice, "Uncle Brent died the next day."

"You don't think she had . . . shot him, do you?"

The major's eyes widened with the shock of a possible revelation. "You know, I would not be surprised." We were both silent after that.

* * * *

Our makeshift hospital remained at Green Willows for another three weeks. By then, the patients who had survived, were transferred to a hospital steamboat that would take them to Memphis. We had received word from the Sanitary Commission of General Rosecrans's defeat at Chickamunga and entrapment in Chattanooga. The War Department had ordered General Grant to relieve them. So, Doctors Henson and Anders, Miriam, Alma, Alice and I were ordered back to Vicksburg to prepare for a trip to Bridgeport, Alabama and join Grant's troops.

The remaining Scott household stood on the veranda out front, to bid us good-bye. The calvary company stationed with us were mounted and waiting. I was the last one to say good-bye. I kissed Maum Janey on the cheek. "Take care of yourself honey," she said. "I don't know how long this war will last but you make sure you get home safely."

"I'll do my best," I answered. I leaned down to hug Shelby. He gave me a quick peck on the cheek and whispered good-bye. I finally turned to Major Scott and extended my hand for him to shake. It seemed strange that I would miss him, considering my first misconception of him. "I am sorry about what happened to your . . ." I started to say.

He waved it aside. "Please. You really should not apologize, Miss Evans. After all, Mo . . . she was trying to kill you. I am just relieved that you managed to come out of this safe." He still had not taken my hand. "Listen, I doubt if we'll ever see each other again, but I was wondering if you would mind us writing to each other now and then." His dark eyes expressed hope.

I stared back and thought of the differences that would keep us apart. But we had a few things in common. Mutual attraction, dislike of slavery and strong personalities. Frankly, I saw no harm in corresponding with him occasionally. "Of course," I replied. Major Scott took hold of my outstretched hand, and kissed it instead, taking me completely by surprise.

I entered the carriage blushing fiercely. As the carriage started down the driveway, everyone stared at me, but remained silent about the kiss. If someone had, I would have gladly helped that person out of the carriage - the hard way.

I turned in my seat for one last look at Green Willows. Major Scott, Shelby and Maum Janey remained on the veranda, waving. I waved back. My eyes raised to the second-floor piazza. There stood a female figure, her skirt billowing about her. She waved slightly and I murmured under my breath, "Au revoir, Marie." And the figure disappeared from sight.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"A NIGHT TO REMEMBER" (1958) Photo Gallery

Below are images from the 1958 adaptation of Walter Lord's 1955 book about the final night of the S.S. Titanic called"A NIGHT TO REMEMBER". Directed by Roy Ward Baker, the movie starred Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, Honor Blackman and Laurence Naismith: 

"A NIGHT TO REMEMBER" (1958) Photo Gallery

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" (1987) Review

"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" (1987) Review

The 1957 Agatha Christie novel, "4.50 From Paddington" aka "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw" has been a favorite of mine since I was in my early teens. There have been one film and two television adaptations of the story. I never saw the film adaptation, which starred Margaret Rutherford. But I have seen the two television versions. One of them was the 1987 BBC adaptation that featured Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple. 

"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" begins when Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy, an old friend of Miss Marple, travels by train to visit the latter in St. Mary's Mead. When her train passes another on a parallel track, she witnesses a woman being strangled inside a compartment of the latter. Mrs. McGillicuddy reports the murder to Miss Marple, who suggests that she contact the police. But due to her age and inability to see the murderer's face, Mrs. McGillicuddy is ignored by the police. Miss Marple decides to take matters into her own hands by tracing Mrs. McGillicuddy's rail journey. The elderly sleuth's investigation leads her to the Rutherford Hall estate, where the railway borders at a curved embankment. Miss Marple recruits an acquaintance of hers, a young professional housekeeper named Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to hire herself out to the family that resides at Rutherford Hall, the Crackenthorpes, to continue the investigation.

Considering that the 1957 novel happened to be a favorite of mine, I had hoped this adaptation by T.R. Bowen would prove to be very satisfying. Needless to say . . . it did not. I am not one of those who demand that a movie or television adaptation adhere closely to its source. But some of the changes made by Bowen in his adaptation proved to be rather annoying to me. And I do not believe these changes served the movie very well. Among Bowen's changes were:

*No one was stricken by food poisoning

*Only one member of the Crackenthorpe family was murdered, instead of two

*The above mentioned victim was killed in a hunting accident, instead of being poisoned

*The nature of the romantic triange between Lucy Eyelesbarrow, Cedric Crackenthorpe and Bryan Eastley has been changed considerably

*Instead of Detective Inspector Dermot Craddock investigating the case, Detective Inspector Slack from three previous "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MISS MARPLE" productions served as the main investigator

*The addition of Chief Inspector Duckham, who was an invention of the screenwriter, was added.

As I had stated earlier, the novel featured the second appearance of Dermot Craddock as the chief investigating officer in a Miss Marple mystery. But instead of hiring John Castle to reprise his Detective Inspector Craddock role from 1985's "A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED", the producers brought back David Horovitch to portray the irritating Detective Inspector Slack. Horovitch had already portrayed Slack in two previous Miss Marple movies, "A BODY IN THE LIBRARY" and "MURDER IN THE VICARAGE". Horovitch is a first-rate actor, but the character of Detective Inspector Slack has always annoyed me. I would have preferred if Craddock had made his second appearance in this movie. To make matters worse, actor David Waller, who had worked with T.R. Bowen for "EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON", was added to portray Chief Inspector Duckham, a character who never appeared in the novel.

Screenwriter T.R. Bowen made matters worse with more changes. Instead of two, only one member of the household ended up murdered - Harold Crackenthorpe, who was a banker. And his murder was disguised as a hunting accident. Harold was murdered with poisoned pills. Bowen completely left out the scene featuring a mass case of food poisoning from which the family suffered. Although the subject of Martine was brought up, Bowen never made the connection between her and the best friend of Bryan Eastley's son, Alexander. And instead of following Christie's portrayal of the "love triangle" between Lucy, Cedric Crackenthorpe and Eastley, who happened to the widower of the late Edith Crackenthorpe; Friend decided to settle matters by having Lucy fall in love with Eastley, who was portrayed as an infantile and suggestible man. Even worse, Lucy seemed to have lost her sense of humor, thanks to Bowen's script and Jill Meager's uninspiring performance. Friend also transformed Cedric into an annoying and oozing ladies' man who tries to hit on Lucy every chance he could. In the novel, Cedric never openly displayed his attraction to Lucy, when he was swapping witty bon mots with her. Yet, Christie made it obvious that he was attracted. And the novel left the matter open on whom Lucy would choose open.

But the one change made by Friend that really annoyed me, turned out to be the big revelation scene. After Miss Marple identified the killer to the police, the Crackenthorpes and Elspeth McGillicuddy; a ridiculous action scene was tacked on by Bowen, allowing Eastley to run after and have a fight with the fleeing killer. It was quite obvious to me that this scene was nothing more than a setup for the audiences to approve of the unconvincing love story between the humorless Lucy and the infantile Eastley. What an incredibly stupid ending to the story!

But despite these flaws, I still managed to somewhat enjoy the movie. One, Joan Hickson was great as ever as Jane Marple. She was supported by solid performances from Joanna David as Emma Crackenthorpe, Andrew Burt as Dr. John Quimper, young Christopher Haley as Alexander Eastley, Robert East as Alfred Crackenthorpe, David Waller as Chief Inspector Duckham, Mona Bruce as Elspeth McGillicuddy and even David Horovitch as Inspector Slack. Slack may have struck me as an annoying character, but I cannot deny that Horovitch gave a competent performance.

Another aspect of "4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" that impressed me was its production design. Raymond Cusick did a first rate job in transforming television viewers back to the mid-to-late 1950s. He was ably supported by Judy Pepperdine's convincing costumes - especially for Jill Eager and Joanna David's characters. I was not that impressed by most of John Walker's photography. However, I must admit that along with Martyn Friend's direction, Walker injected a great deal of atmosphere and mystery into the scene featuring the murder that Mrs. McGillicuddy witnessed.

It really pains me to say this, but despite Hickson's first rate performance and the production design, "4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" does not strike me as one of the best Miss Marple movies to feature the late actress. Another version was made in 2004 and quite frankly, it was not an improvement. Hopefully, someone will make a first-rate adaptation of one of my favorite Christie novels.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Incredible Hulk Meets Thor - Part I

incredible hulk returns

Twenty-four years ago, a television movie called "THE INCREDIBLE HULK RETURNS" aired on CBS. It served as a continuation of the popular 1978-1982 television series and starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK MEETS THOR - PART I "THE INCREDIBLE HULK RETURNS" not only features another attempt by Banner to rid himself of the Hulk for good, but also his meeting Dr. Donald Blake aka Thor, God of Thunder. Here is a recap and REVIEW of the movie. Unless there is a third movie that features both the Hulk and Thor, "THE INCREDIBLE HULK RETURNS" features their first on-screen meeting, until 24 years later in the summer blockbuster, "THE AVENGERS". I think.

The-Avengers-The-Hulk-psd82209 2400410-chrishemsworth_thor_avengers