Running Time: In Search Of...

This week I got back on the horse.  Or at least, back on the treadmill.  About ten days ago I overdid it a bit; I was running on a Saturday and feelin' fine, getting my In Search Of on.  In fact, I was enjoying the run so much that I watched nearly four episodes: "Atlantis" first, then "Psychic Detectives" and "A Call From Space," followed by half of "Learning ESP."  Total time was 71 minutes, or just over seven miles.

Can you think of a better hero for a 13 year old girl?  Besides her dad, of course!

Can you think of a better hero for a 13 year old girl?  Besides her dad, of course!

The next day I got through the second half of "Learning ESP," just about one mile.  Almost immediately my knee started to hurt.  I thought I'd "run it out."  That mile was enough to convince me that I was "running it worse," so I called it a day and researched iliotibial band syndrome instead.  Short story: overuse.  Rest until it doesn't ache, then do more cross-training.

Fortunately for both of you who eagerly awaited my next 70's TV review I was able to run again this week.  I caught "Nazi Plunder" on Tuesday and "Amelia Earhart" Thursday.  Since things are holding up pretty well my next run will include both "Dracula" and "The Easter Island Massacre."

One thing struck me about both "Nazi Plunder" and "Amelia Earhart."  As of today both these episodes stand the test of time.  Numerous tantalizing hints exist pointing to yet-unfound treasure ditched by Nazi officials fleeing the fall of the Reich.  And of course, despite tremendous research and searching, Amelia Earhart's disappearance has yet to be definitively explained.  Considering that these episodes are 40 years old and covering subjects from 30 to 35 year prior to that, it's pretty impressive that they can still be intriguing today. 

Running Time: In Search Of...

Hello, 1970's!  For Christmas someone sent me a box set of EVERY EPISODE of In Search Of, a documentary-ish series that ran from 1976 to 1982 and was hosted by Mr. Spock, er, Leonard Nimoy. I've run through six episodes so far.  The episode lengths are perfect for running; at 22 minutes each I can do an easy weekday morning run of 2.2 miles or the two-episode runs of 45 minutes for a nice 4.5 miles.  (When watching episodes 1 and 2 on weekdays I just ran an extra three minutes each time to get to a nice, even 2.5 miles.)

It's a fun series to watch, if you can avoid getting into the "40 years later we know better" mindset.  So far I've viewed topics such as plant empathy, the Nazca Lines, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, and killer bees.  First thing that struck me was the disclaimer at the beginning of each show -- the producer points out that this show is only meant to introduce a few possibilities, not back any particular theory or claim to know fact.  I thought it funny that that seemed important to do, given that today people make whatever moronic claims they want on TV without the slightest concern of veracity.  Go figure.

Second thing I noticed is that a lot of the clothing reminds me of my childhood.

Although you have enjoy the series while keeping in mind that forty years have passed (much like watching Ray Harryhausen special effects and still loving Perseus taking on the Kraken) one more serious lesson did occur to me while watching the episode on Bigfoot.  One segment includes an anatomist who has viewed the Robert Patterson Bigfoot film in "minute detail, frame by frame."  He swears that the film must be authentic and goes into great scientific detail about why Patterson couldn't have faked the film.  You've got to believe him, right?  After all, this is the specialty he's studied for decades.  Of course, in 1998 a fellow named Bob Heironimus admitted to being the man in the Bigfoot costume and other evidence surfaced to show that the film was entirely faked.  Sorry, Science.

Running Time: You Only Live Twice

Since I have nearly all of the James Bond movies on DVD now (I used to have them on VHS.  I haven't been using the VHS player for a while) I realized I could run about ten marathons while watching my way through the entire collection.  And that's even skipping the truly crappy films.  This last week I hit You Only Live Twice, mainly because it's one of those that I haven't seen for years.  Keep in mind that Bond movies are LONG.  This one clocks in at three minutes less than two hours, so I ended up watching it in four runs: 3 miles, 2 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles. 

It's also one of the worst-written Bond movies.  It's overly fantastic, even for a Bond film.  Yeah, normally James gets a metric crap ton of the old willing suspension of disbelief, but this one defies all boundaries.  Worse, though (and what relegates this to the ranks of lesser Bond films) is that the believable parts of the script just don't make sense.

Ignore the fact that SPECTRE has perfected a VTOL spaceship that can capture other spaceships and bring them back to Earth, without either the Americans or Soviets able to track it.  We'll just let that go via "it's a bond film."  More annoying is that to "infiltrate" this small Japanese fishing island, Bond must a) be made up to pass as a Japanese fisherman, b) marry a local villager to establish bona fides and c) train to be a ninja.  All in three days, no less.

You know who the least Japanese-looking man on the planet is?  Sean Connery-san.

Of course, none of this subterfuge is really necessary because SPECTRE apparently knows where Bond is all along.  He's attacked twice at Tiger Tanaka's secret home and ninja training ground, so why he needs to marry a local woman to gain access to the volcanic island base is beyond me.  Not to mention that Tiger manages to infiltrate a hundred commando ninjas onto the island without marrying them off to the locals.  Apparently SPECTRE will be alerted by a Single White Male setting foot on the island, but 100 strangers in a village of 50 people doesn't raise an alarm.

Here's the one thing I really like about You Only Live Twice: it was written by Roald Dahl.  That's right, the same Roald Dahl who wrote Matilda and The BFG.  I looked up Roald after watching and found his story far more entertaining than the movie.  He was also a World War II fighting ace in the Royal Air Force, but this came after he'd already crashed one plane in the African desert and severely injured himself.  Guess there's always a chance to rekindle your career.

Running Time: The Man in the High Castle

Specifically, season 1, episodes 1 and 2.  The introductory episode runs 61 minutes, while the second brings you back to even with 59.  I watched "The New World," episode 1, in two runs on the same day; 30 minutes in the morning, wanted to see the rest enough to watch during another three mile run late that afternoon.  Episode 2, "Sunrise," was also a two-run view, but it was forty minutes in the first run and just a two mile finisher the next day.

(I also watched Episode 3 while sitting on the couch one night this week.  The whole series doesn't have to be viewed from a treadmill.)

I'm loving this.  I've been a big fan of Philip K. Dick for years, and The Man in the High Castle was one of my favorite of his novels.  Despite that, I'm pretty certain this is going to be one of those rare occasions where I find the film better than the written story.  Sacrilege, I know, but it happens.  Face it, Bladerunner was a much better film (and comprehensible story) than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was a book. 

The quick synopsis: it's 1962 and the Allies did not win World War Two.  The Pacific States of America are occupied by Japan, the eastern seaboard is under control of the Reich, and a thin band of mountain and desert states in between are an uneasily free Neutral Zone.  Although people have settled somewhat into a new way of life, tension is already mounting between Germany and Japan, with heavy foreboding that Hitler's death will result in new conflict as Germany completes its quest for global dominance. 

Add in an American resistance network and you've got a great background for very compelling stories, not the least of which is the Man himself.  The Man in the High Castle is a semi-mythic figure who's distributing film -- newsreel footage which shows an alternate history of the Allies winning the war. 

It's not the same story as the Philip K. Dick novel.  IMDB's message board is full of purists and trolls bitching about how different the story is, or nitpicking the least essential details in an effort to show off to the one or two other people who care.  (It's called "film adaptation," kiddos.)  So far it's a great show, though, and pleasantly surprising from a production point of view; I didn't know Amazon Studios had this good of filmmaking in them.  Go figure.

Running Time: Across the Pacific

First full movie I've watched while running.  Obviously I'm running on the treadmill, because who wants to carry a 55" screen with them on a job outside?  In the past I've always listened to music while running and if I'm on the treadmill I'll try to find something on TV that can distract me visually, but I realized I was putting too much time into looking for the right kind of movie for visual only, and since I'm most often running in the morning there are no hockey or football games on.

I'm a very devoted Bogart fan and I hadn't yet watched cross The Pacific o I took in the full hour and forty minutes in three running sessions, two 30 minute runs and a forty.  Since I do longer runs at 6 mph, you can do the math and figure out that it's a 10 mile movie.

Let's start with the irony, because I love irony: though the vast majority of the film takes place on a boat, they never actually go across the Pacific.  The boat sets sail from Halifax, travels down the Atlantic coast, and the story ends just shy of the Panama Canal.  Yeah.  No Pacific at all.

But wait!  Perhaps "across the Pacific" refers to the imminent threat of Japanese invasion?  The story takes place shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor (Bogart film, remember?  It has to be set somewhere around WWII) and the boat upon which Bogie, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor are sailing is a Japanese cargo boat with limited passenger space.  In fact, it's pretty much limited to just enough passengers for this story.

Across the Pacific doesn't have the emotional depth of Casablanca, but it definitely has a bit deeper/more complex story than the typical Bogart movie.  Not that the plot is complex as, say, The Usual Suspects or L.A. Confidential.  Again, it's a Bogart/John Huston movie; there's no such thing as a subplot.  It's more that the backstories for the characters have a bit of depth that's more common in more recent movies.  Also, this is one of the better mysteries among my Bogart collection -- rather than the "will he or won't he?" question of Casablanca (the greatest film ever made) you spend a great deal of the movie trying to figure out exactly what happened in Rick's (Bogart) background and whether Alberta (Astor) is just along for the ride or if there's more going on with her.

The dialogue's as witty as ever.  Huston and Bogart always seem to have great dialogue written no matter who they enlist to scribe.  Likewise, Bogie and Mary Astor are fantastic together.  Their fun interchanges are Bogie at his best, and she's right on par with him. 

Sydney Greenstreet's character, Dr. Lorenz, is also interesting from an historical point of view.  On the one hand, Dr. Lorenz is one of the earliest film characters I'm aware of who professes an adopted identity with a significantly different culture (the Japanese).  On the other hand, while describing the beauty of some of the Japanese traditions and way of life he simultaneously manages to expose unabashed racism through condescending general comments, such as, "they make excellent servants." 

1942.  Take the historical context and move along.

It's an excellent movie.  I'd place it in the top tier of Bogart films, not one of the many Bogie filler material you find in the rest of the catalog.  Next time you're on a ten mile run you should give it a try.