Played

Funeral in BerlinM Funeral 1966

Theaters:  December 1966

Streaming:  August 2001

Rated:  NR

Runtime:  102 minutes

Genre:  Action – Classic – Drama – Mystery – Suspense – Thriller

els:  6.5/10

IMDB:  6.9/10

Amazon:  4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore:  NA/100

Metacritic User Score:  NA/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Guy Hamilton

Written by:  Evan Jones (screenplay), Len Deighton (book)

Music by:  Konrad Elfers

Cast:  Michael Caine, Paul Hubschmid, Oscar Homolka, Eva Renzi

Film Locations:  Germany, UK

Budget:  $

Worldwide Box Office:  $

Harry Palmer (Caine), an expendable British spy, is sent to East Germany to bring in  a Russian intelligence colonel, Stok, (Homolka) who is tired of his no-win job providing security for the Berlin Wall and wants to defect to the west. Palmer, a born cynic and an insolent one at that, doesn’t believe the Russian’s story, doesn’t accept that he is seduced, willingly, by a glamorous model, Steel, (Renzi) because of his charm and great looks, and he doesn’t trust his West German contact, Mr. Smooth and Rich, British agent Johnny Vulkan (Hubschmid).  With no good options Palmer just carries on and sees where his strolls at midnight take him.

Funeral in Berlin, written in 1964, is the 3rd spy novel in Len Deighton’s Unnamed Hero series and 2nd one that was made into a movie starring Caine. This book was preceded by The Ipcress File in 1962 and Horse Under Water in 1963.  The 4th book in series was Billion-Dollar Brain published in 1966.  All the books were made into movies except Horse Under Water which was scheduled to be the 4th movie with Caine but was canceled when Billion-Dollar Brain fared poorly with the critics and the box office.

Deighton, part of the popular triumvirate of British spy novelists along with Ian Fleming and John le Carré, wrote his first spy novel, The Ipcress File while living in Dordogne, France, an expat community of Brits, socialists and communists. All 3 not necessarily being the same person. The book was an instant success and it was quickly adapted into a movie of the same name in 1965 which also met with critical success.  His books were hailed for their realistic detail to bureaucratic bumbling and pettiness, germane to all large departments and agencies the world over.

Evan Jones, born to banana farmers in Jamaica, studied in Jamaica and the U.S., taught in the U.S., then moved to England to write for television and film.  Evan Jones loosely followed Deighton’s book when writing the screenplay.  In the book the defector is a Soviet scientist who has been granted approval to leave by the Russian security guru Colonel Stok.

Guy Hamilton, director of 4 James Bond movies, has a deserved reputation for injecting high-brow humor into his action movies and he does not let his viewers down with his, and Evan Jones’, interpretation of the Funeral in Berlin. The action is low-tech with tight scenes of suspense interspersed with Caine’s acerbic cracks at the establishment. Hamilton’s efforts are better than what Ken Russell accomplished in Billion-Dollar Brain but significantly inferior to Sid Furie’s The Ipcress File.

Michael Caine and Oscar Homolka are brilliant in the movie. They play off each others morbid sense of humor and dial the thriller down to a level of fun and games in a world of known mostly for deadly results.

 

The L.A. Times reported in 2007 that Howard Hughes in a codeine induced haze watched Funeral in Berlin, in the buff, 3 times in row.  Regardless of Hughes critique this is a good movie, not a great movie, but Michael Caine makes it fun to watch.

A Little Package of our Past

World History: 50 Key Milestones You Really Need to Know B 50 History

Written by:  Ian Crofton

Published by:  Quercus

Copyright:  © 2011

Attempting to describe 12-15,000 years, since the big ice fields melted, of human endeavors in 200 pages and 50 topics would seem presumptuous and futile, and you would be right, but one has to start somewhere and the first steps can and should be small but decisive.  One can quibble about the exact 50 topics, and I will do just that in a bit, but the author, Ian Crofton, performs the task with aplomb, and provides the maximum amount of useful information possible given the limiting format.

This book is a quick and fun read for both those without a broad or deep introduction to human history or those that just want to refresh their memory on once familiar, but long forgotten topics. Even if you are familiar with all the topics in the book there will be a sufficient amount of new informational tidbits to make it worth your time. For myself, as one example, I found the observation that our ancestral hunter-gather cousins versus the first cereal grain farmers, were healthier, due mainly to their higher protein intake from a meat rich diet, was new and interesting.

Each “idea” or event is developed, chronologically, over 4 printed pages that includes a short thesis, an expansion of that thesis, a timeline of notable events, a famous quote(s) and an ending synopsis of the discussion.  The publisher of this book, Quercus, has published at least 27 other books of a similar nature and format that explore the great topics of the human experience including: architecture, art, astronomy, big ideas, biology, chemistry, the digital world, earth, economics, ethics, the future, genetics, the human brain, literature, management, math, philosophy, philosophy of science, physics, politics, psychology, quantum physics, religion, science, universe, war, and world history. I believe they continue to add more topics as the years go by.  I have several of the topics, listed above on my already too fat reading list.

Not to detract from the topics that the author has chosen, his are all defendable, but for myself I probably would have included 5 different topics devoted to: the Iron Age, Israelites of the 12th century BC, 1st century Christianity, Sumerians development of an alphabet in 300 BC coupled with Guttenberg’s first printing press in the 15th century AD, 18th century BC Babylonian Hammurabi’s, and 7th century BC Greek Draco’s legal codifications, and finally the advent of computers in the 20th century and beyond.  Adding 5 topics requires that 5 be removed. I would likely leave out: Empires and Kingdoms of Africa, The Bubonic Plague, the Vietnam War, integral to the late 20th century US, but will likely be a footnote on communism in the future, and lastly, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the post 9-11 topics, at a minimum, combined into a topic on 21st century divisions in civilization and culture, as if that were something new. On further thought, maybe just leave those last two topics out completely, mainly because they are too fresh to decide their seminality to our future development as a species.

That leaves our list one shy of 50. What topic(s) would you add?

The Price of Secrets

The Secret Scripture  (2017)  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 108 minutesM Scripture 2017.jpg

Genre: Drama-Mystery-Romance

els – 6.5/10

IMDb – 6.6/10

Amazon – 4.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.4/5

Metacritic Metascore – 37/100

Metacritic User Score – NR/10

Directed by:  Jim Sheridan

Written by:  Sebastian Berry, Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson

Produced by:  Noel Pearson, Rob Quigley, Jim Sheridan

Music by:  Brian Bryne

Cast:  Rooney Mara, Aidan Turner, Theo James, Eric Bana, Vanessa Redgrave

To understand this movie, a smidgen of background knowledge germane to WWII Irish history is needed, or else the story becomes unhinged from the plot with cryptic scenes sprinkled throughout the movie that will bewilder and flummox the viewer. At the start of WWII in 1939, Ireland declared its intent to remain neutral towards the Allied and Axis powers, and they did officially remain neutral throughout the war, but provided assistance to the Allied powers when and where possible.  The Irish government feared joining the war on either side would reopen the recent wounds inflicted by their civil war fought in the early 1920s; by the fascists and the anti-fascists, the pro-Brits and the IRA, the pro and the anti-treaty proponents, and they all remained active in Ireland up to, and beyond WWII.  The IRA was particularly anxious to curry favor with the Germans, to obtain their aid in the form of money, influence, and weapons; endeavors precipitating various IRA acts of war within and beyond the borders of Ireland.

Roseanne McNulty the elder, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and Roseanne McNulty the younger, played by Rooney Mara, parcel out a story of love and loyalty, unrequited love and betrayal, death, cruelty and denial; which, during war leads to Rose’s incarceration, or to use a less judgmental word, confinement, in an Irish mental institution for nearly 50 years. The institution was less about care and rehabilitation than an exercise in control and dominance; keeping Rose docile and quiet, but in the end, not able to lessen her romantic love or boundless spirit, just her hold on reality. Rose the elder maintains a record of her captivity, mysterious inscriptions in her bible, that becomes the source of her deliverance from past; bringing closure in the kindred form of a believer and a redeemer.

The directing, writing and acting are all exceptional.  Only the improbable conclusion lessens the impact of the story but it still works even though you see it coming a mile away.  Catch up on your Irish WWII history and then watch the movie.

Explorations: 2

E Lexington

Lexington (CV-2) burning and listing during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Commissioned 1927, scuttled 8 May 1942. Carried 2971 crew and 78 aircraft.

 

The Battle of the Coral Sea, Pacific Theater, WWII 4-8 May 1942. This was the first major naval battle between Allied forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy, involving aircraft carriers. The battle was also a first where the two navy’s ships never saw or fired on one another directly.  The battle was carried out almost exclusively by aircraft fighters and bombers launched from the carriers.

The allies entered the battle with 2 fleet carriers, 9 cruisers, 13 destroyers, 128 aircraft, and various support ships, while the Japanese had 2 fleet carriers, 1 light carrier, 9 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 127 aircraft along with various support ships. Ship losses were, greater, by tonnage, on the allied side which included the Lexington aircraft carrier, 1 destroyer, and several smaller ships totaling 42,497 tons.  The Imperial Navy lost 1 light carrier, 1 destroyer and several smaller ships equal to 19,000 tons.  The Allies lost 543 men while the Japanese lost 1029.

The Battle of the Coral Sea was to have profound and positive consequences for the Allies in one month, at Battle of Midway; by keeping 2 of the Imperial Navy’s carriers out of action in this upcoming naval battle.

Additional information for the Battle of the Coral Sea:

  1. Battle of the Coral Sea, by Charles River Editors, CreateSpace Publishing, © 2016.
  2. The Coral Sea 1942, by Mark Stille and John White, Osprey Publishing, © 2009.
  3. The Battle of the Coral Sea, by Office of Naval Intelligence, CreateSpace Publishing, © 2009.

War in Paradise

Tales of the South Pacific B South Pacific

Written by:  James A. Michener

Published by:  Curtis Publishing Company

Copyright:  © 1947

James Michener, an adopted child of a Pennsylvania Quaker, instilled his fictional Tales of the South Pacific from his garrisoned experiences as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy during the latter half of his WWII tour of duty. From 1944-1946, he was stationed mainly on Espiritu Santo, a small island on the eastern edge of the Coral Sea, as a naval historian, but he frequently visited other tropical islands in the area.

The short stories collected in this book, which Michener won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, probe the symbiosis and bonds between the American G.I. and frequently, female Pacific Islanders. The tales revolve around mostly the same characters, with a commander generally filling in as the first person narrator, and a few common plot lines such as a forthcoming, but fictitious island invasion.

Michener’s descriptive prose can be captivating and luxurious, sometimes almost hypnotic, such as the sketch of the local song birds on the protagonist’s lover’s plantation in the poignant love story, Our Heroine:

…Their harsh cries were modified by the delicate chirping of a graceful swallowlike bird that flew in great profusion among the cacao trees. This gracious bird was sooty black except for a white breast and belly.  Gliding and twisting through the shadows it looked like a shadow itself. Then bursting into the sunlight, its white body shone brilliantly…

The composition is good, probably better than anything else he wrote later in life but it does not reach the level of a master story-teller such as what Joseph Conrad attained in his Heart of Darkness or a Jack London story, for instance: All Gold Canyon:

…The red-coated many-antlered buck acknowledged the lordship of the spirit of the place and dozed knee-deep in the cool, shaded pool.  There seemed no flies to vex him and he was languid with rest.  Sometimes his ears moved when the stream awoke and whispered; but they moved lazily, with foreknowledge that it was merely the stream grown garrulous at discovery that it had slept…

Tales of the South Pacific is the antithesis of Michener’s future product; short stories versus monstrously thick and wordy novels, crisp and straightforward plot lines versus cloudy and cumbersome themes, and finally a compassionate acknowledgement for his reader’s attention rather than a dismissive condescension for those not willing to commit to consuming his turgid volumes of fictional excess.

Michener wrote one good book: Tales of the South Pacific.

%d bloggers like this: