DVD Review: One Body Too Many

So, have you ever been watching The Wizard of Oz and find yourself looking at the Tin Woodsman and thinking, “Mm–that Jack Haley. I’d like to see him naked holding an armload of adorable black kittens.” No? Me neither. But if there’s somebody out there that’s had that thought, then I’ve found a movie for you.

One Body Too Many is a 1940s comedy that plays with the standard formula and tropes of those Old Dark House movies I’ve been hunting down during the last few years. Haley plays Albert Tuttle, a nerdy but ambitious insurance salesman who has an appointment to sign up a new client, Cyrus Rutherford, an eccentric millionaire so obsessed with astrology that he’s built an observatory on top of his mansion. What Albert doesn’t know is that his prospective client has no need to buy life insurance; he’s just dropped dead.

We cut to the familiar old scene of the family gathered at the mansion to hear the reading of the will–only, it isn’t a will. Cyrus Rutherford’s lawyer instead reads a preamble to his will, which leaves amounts from $50,000 to $1.50 for cab fare to the various people in the room–Rutherford’s sister and her husband, a collection of nieces and nephews, the astrologer who helped Rutherford design his observatory, the housekeeper and butler. (This last is played by Bela Lugosi, who doesn’t really get much to do in this movie besides play out a running joke by offering everyone cups of coffee which the viewer has reason to believe he’s poisoned to get rid of “all the rats.”) The preamble to Rutherford’s will also features some snarky comments about these people so that we get some quick sketches of their characters and can sort out the nice ones from the nasties… for the most part, anyway.

According to the terms of the preamble, Rutherford’s coffin is to be placed in a glass vault on top of the observatory so that he can always gaze up at the stars. This vault will take a few days to be built. No one can leave the house before then without forfeiting their inheritance. Once the body is in its final resting place, the will will be read. If, for some reason, the body isn’t placed in the vault according to Rutherford’s wishes, then the terms of the will will be reversed–that is, the people who were to receive the largest amounts of money will get pocket change and the original recipients of the small amounts will be rich. At this point, no one has read the will and don’t know what they are going to inherit, but from the snarky remarks in the preamble we can all guess who Rutherford did and didn’t like.

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DVD Review: Dark Shadows–the end of “The Beginning”

Although I’ve put the next series of Dark Shadows on DVD in my queue, I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing any more after this. We’ve come to the part of Dark Shadows that everyone who knows anything about the show is familiar with.

There isn’t much else to tell: Willie Loomis, now played by John Karlen, continues to make himself repugnant by committing petty thefts around Collinwood and threatening the rest of the cast until even his partner-in-crime Jason is sick of it and wants him to go away. But you can’t push Willie around–Willie won’t go. He’s determined to stay around long enough to steal something expensive and shiny; jewels seem to be a special object of fascination for him.

The Painting of BarnabasIt isn’t the ring and medallion displayed in Barnabas’s portrait he’s after, however. According to Collins family tradition, Barnabas went to England and died there and presumably took his valuables with him.

Further research into the family’s history, with David’s assistance, turns up the story of one Naomi Collins, a lady who was once given some gemstones by a pirate and wore them to her grave.

Everyone except for David and Willie thinks that the pirate part of this story sounds silly, but they believe the part about Naomi being buried with her jewelry to be true. Willie is also urged on by the tell-tale sound of a beating heart, although it doesn’t seem to make him feel guilty about anything.
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DVD Review: Dark Shadows–Heading toward Barnabas Collins

During the aftermath of the Phoenix storyline, as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard recovers from her coma and returns home, a new, mysterious stranger appears in Collinsport. His name is Jason McGuireJason McGuire and he’s an extremely smarmy character with a suspect Irish accent. He claims to be an old friend of Paul Stoddard, Elizabeth’s husband who disappeared more than eighteen years ago. McGuire hints that he knows something about Paul’s disappearance and, more than that, holds this knowledge over Elizabeth. Within days of his arrival in town, he’s forced her to invite him to stay at Collinwood.

McGuire also seems to know something about Collinwood. One evening while Roger is searching the cellar for some paintings he purchased from Sam Evans ten years ago, he encounters the mysterious houseguest examining the padlock on the door to that even-more mysterious locked room. The two chat about McGuire’s long-absent friend, Paul Stoddard. When, asks Roger, did McGuire see Paul last?

McGuire grins and gestures at the basement floor at the foot of the stairs. “Right here.” A moment later, he adds that Paul was packing up a few things before leaving Collinwood, but I don’t believe that’s what he meant at all.
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DVD Review: Dark Shadows, finally the conclusion of the Phoenix saga

At the close of the last set of Dark Shadows episodes on DVD, parapsychologist Dr. Guthrie proposed a jaunt to the vault/graveyard of an old New England family named Stockbridge to open up the tomb of Laura Murdoch Stockbridge–a lady who died by fire exactly 200 years ago. Carolyn Stoddard and her former fiance Joe were shocked by the request and just a tad reluctant to join him, but as this DVD set begins, the trio is at the crypt.

Laura's empty graveSo, what’s inside Laura Murdoch Stockbridge’s tomb? Nothing.

Nor, after a spot of late-night grave digging, is there anything to be found in the coffin of Laura Murdoch Radcliffe, who died 100 years ago by fire, except for a nice satin lining. Their bodies have disappeared as completely as that of the unidentified woman who burnt to death in Phoenix.

While Dr. Guthrie and his companions are at the vault, they discover more historical evidence in the collection of books the old caretaker keeps concerning the Stockbridge family.

An article clipped from an old newspaper reveals the full story of Laura Murdoch Radcliffe’s death. She burned alive at her home with her son David in her arms. In spite of attempts to rescue them, neither wanted to be saved from the fire.

1867 news clippings
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DVD Review: Dark Shadows, a little more of the Phoenix

Now that Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is out of the way, Roger overrides her instructions to Vicky and Carolyn not to let David near Laura. He is, after all, the boy’s father and he isn’t as intimidated by the two girls as he is by his big sister. He lets David have a sleep-over at the cottage where Laura has been staying. While the boy sleeps in his mother’s arms on the sofa, Josette makes one of her jasmine-scented appearances; Laura sends her away, saying that there’s nothing the ghost can do while she’s holding her son. Nothing else happens. After all their predictions of disaster, Vicky and Carolyn are a little disappointed the next morning when David tells them that he had a nice time with his mom.

Dr. Guthrie, meanwhile, proposes a séance to contact Josette. He’s doubtful that she’ll appear, but I was sure she’d show up. She’s been in more episodes lately than Joe or Maggie. Roger sneers as usual, but agrees to it. Laura refuses to attend.

The séance is performed on a dark and stormy night. Great! I love this stuff.
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DVD Review: Dark Shadows, more of the Phoenix saga

While watching Gone With the Wind recently, I also viewed some of the extras in the DVD set, including screen tests for prospective casting. I’d forgotten that 30 years before taking the role of Elizabeth Collins Stoddart, young Joan Bennett had been one of the Scarlett O’Hara finalists before Vivien Leigh knocked her, Paulette Goddard, and all the other contenders out of the running.

I mention this since, after weeks of having very little to do except keep Collins family secrets, Joan Bennett finally has an opportunity to put in a real performance.

The Phoenix paintingWe learn at last what force lies behind those strange compulsions moving the characters to act in strange ways (as well as keep the plot going): it’s the family ghost, Josette Collins.

Now that Sam Evans is no longer able to paint pictures of Laura Collins in flames, Josette takes a more direct approach. She appears in David’s bedroom and completes the unfinished painting herself.

When Vicky goes into David’s room, she is horrified to find that the David-shaped blank space in one corner has been filled in–with David’s face. The others are likewise terrified, since no one had been in the room before Vicky went upstairs. No one they know of could have finished the painting. Yet the paint is still wet.
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Irish Travel Journal, Day 9

This was the final day of the tour.

Blarney Castle

Me in the Blarney Castle Gardens
Me in the Blarney Castle Gardens

I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone; since I was developing a cold, I didn’t think that would be a good idea either for me or for thousands of other tourists who might be kissing the stone that day.

As we drove there, I considered climbing up the tower anyway, until I learned that waiting in line up the stairs took 45 minutes to an hour, and we would be there just over 2 hours. So I spent my time in the gardens instead.

The gardens were very beautiful, and we had some sun that morning, although it would become overcast later in the day.

Once you cross the road from the parking area by the Blarney Woolen Mills shopping mall and enter the castle grounds, you approach the famous castle tower through a long path by a stream past decorative gardens. The tower can be glimpsed through the trees.

Eventually, you emerge at a wide green lawn and the remains of the old castle loom before you.
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Irish Travel Journal, Day 8

Dingle Peninsula

The stretch of beautiful weather finally came to an end. I suppose we were lucky to have had so many sunny days in a row during an Irish spring. This was the day it rained the most. Since this was meant to be an opportunity to look at gorgeous scenery, like our drive around the Ring of Kerry the day before, the purpose of our trip was somewhat obscured.

Inch Beach
Inch Beach

Our first stop was at Inch Beach, which is a long spit of sand that sticks out into Dingle Bay. We were there only briefly to have a look at it, but had no time to walk up and down the shore; I would’ve liked to, even in the rain.

One of the other ladies on the tour gathered up a handful of sand from the beach in a zip-lock bag to take home for her son.

We continued along the peninsula’s west coast until we reached the town of Dingle. This was meant to be just a mid-morning rest stop–the bus goes out around the end of the peninsula and returns to the town for a longer visit at lunch-time. But since it was raining so hard and they didn’t think they would be able to see much, about 10 or 12 people on the tour opted to stay in town and do some shopping.

I decided to stay on the bus, thinking that a drive in the rain would be more comfortable than walking around the streets through it with no umbrella.
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Irish Travel Journal, Day 7

The Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is the road that circles the Iveragh Peninsula, one of the peninsulas that extends from Ireland’s southern end into the Atlantic. On our first day in Killarney, we drove this circuit to take in the gorgeous scenery.

I’ve mentioned before that we had had beautiful, sunny days since Westport and this was another (sadly, the last). Doug said more than once that he’d never seen the view so clear at the Cliffs of Moher, nor at the Ring of Kerry.

A photo of the mountains taken from the bus.
The Mountains of Kerry

I took a lot of photos on this day, more than I could reasonably post. It’s hard to pick out some of the best.
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Irish Travel Journal, Day 6

When the tour bus left the Knockranny Hotel that morning, there was a feeling of deja vu; we took the same road we’d driven on the day before until we reached Leenane. Instead of going along the foot of the hills to the catamaran pier, however, this time we turned onto a road that led up into the hills and headed south along the west coast.

Although we were not always in sight of the ocean, we were never very far from it. The scenery was, as usual, lovely and it was another sunny-but-chilly spring day. We didn’t stop during this part of the journey, but everyone tried to take photos through the bus windows–sometimes with better results than others.

Another passenger on the tour bus takes a photo of an old church through the window at the same time I do.
Another Passenger Takes the Same Photo I Do

Our first brief stop of the morning was at the Connemara Marble Factory. By some strange quirk of Nature, the green marble they quarry here is unique to Ireland.

We were taken on a tour of the area where the marble is cut and polished, then let loose in the gift shop. I bought a few nice little pieces for friends and relatives–an emerald-colored cross, some “worry stones,” and a little Scotty-dog figurine.
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