Archive for 2019

Mystery Collection Disc 51

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Mr. Robinson Crusoe, 1932, b&w. A. Edward Sutherland (dir.), Douglas Fairbanks, William Farnum, Maria Alba. 1:16 [1:10].

What to say? A yachtsman with his buddies in the South Pacific bets his friends he can swim to an uninhabited island with nothing but his clothes and a toothbrush and not only survive but thrive. Improbably (to put it mildly), this apparent engineering genius shortly manages to have a “penthouse” of sorts—and when a headhunter from a neighboring island threatens him, not only bests the headhunter, but with two radio tubes around the headhunter’s neck builds himself a radio that brings in San Francisco and other stations;

Did I say improbable? Maybe implausible.

Meanwhile, the companions are doing “sporting” things like shooting a lion in Sumatra—such manly fun! And a young woman on the very-much-inhabited nearby island flees because she’s been betrothed to a man she doesn’t care for, rows off and winds up…well, you can guess.

Oh, and the friend who made the bet doesn’t want to lose, so he hires the tribe on the nearby island to scare the yachtsman and tie him up (they make it very realistic, having him tied up like a skewered pig over an open flame—but the pet monkey turns on the radio, scaring away the tribe, and the woman unties him. And so on…

On one hand, Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.) clearly had the time of his life making this movie—which he also wrote under a pseudonym and produced. And his engineering does result in some amusing sight gags, implausible as it is. On the other…it’s racist as hell. If you can ignore that, it’s probably worth $1, but I can’t.

The Capture, 1950, b&w. John Sturges (dir.), Lew Ayres, Teresa Wright, Victor Jory. 1:31.

When you shoot a man, it’s probably not a good idea to marry his widow. Although, as it turns out, that’s not quite the story of this pretty decent flick, set in Mexico, and involving a convenient “great circle theory” of wounded arms.

The story, in brief: An American oil man in Mexico attempts to deal with the theft of the company payroll—and apparent death of all but one guard—by going after the apparent thief. He finds a person and, when the person fails to surrender with both hands in the air (because he’s been wounded in one arm and can’t move it), shoots to wound, but badly enough that the suspect dies of internal bleeding. And his guilt seems a bit questionable as the loot’s nowhere to be found.

The oil man’s fed up; his fiancée drops him; he quits and gets on a train—the same train carrying the corpse back home. He winds up working on the widow’s ranch, eventually figuring out that the couple weren’t really in love, and marrying her…and then, as he finds more information, feeling obliged to find the actual thief.

One thing leads to another, and there’s a dead oil man (the actual thief), with our hero the obvious suspect—although it’s pretty clear self-defense, he apparently never thinks of dealing with the police. In the process of escaping…he gets wounded in the same arm so he can’t lift it. He winds up spending the night recounting the story to a priest. At the last minute, thanks to his wife, he’s able to lift that other arm and surrender…and we’re somehow to believe all will live happily ever after.

Yeah, OK, so the plot’s more than a stretch, the last 20 minutes make no sense whatsoever, and the relationships involved are a touch strange—but Ayres and the rest do a good job, and in the end it was a pretty decent movie. $1.50.

Who Killed Doc Robbin?, 1948, color. Bernard Carr (dir.), “Curley and His Gang” and others. 0:55 (0:52).

A thrilling story of atomic espionage, animal experimentation, jurisprudence and an intrepid band of youngsters…well, no. It’s an atrocious little flick involving a fix-it man who’s developing Incredible Atomic Weapons as a sideline, an evil doctor who fakes his own death, a “haunted mansion” that only has electricity when it’s convenient, a justice system in which the first suspect is immediately brought to trial, as is the second suspect, with apparently no consideration of investigation.

What it really is, is a cheapo, badly acted, casually racist version of an “our gang” style set of kids, this one including two ethnic stereotypes for easy laughs…and it’s not worth a cent, color or not. (Really? A black kid falls into a magic washing machine and a chimp dons the ironed clothes that emerge? And then the other kids assume this is the black kid?) No real laughs, no coherent plot, just kids running around and fainting and screaming a lot. Just awful. (I do appreciate one IMDB review: “this film runs a short 55 minutes but I could have sworn it ran a few hours longer.”) Free on Amazon Prime, but the price is too high. $0.

Desperate Cargo, 1941, b&w. William Beaudine (dir.), Ralph yByrd, Carol Hughes, Jack Mulhall, Julie Duncan. 1:07 [1:02]

This is really more of a romantic comedy with a “mystery” thrown in. Two showgirls stuck in the Caribbean get a Broadway job offer and get set to fly home—but, while waiting for the delayed Caribbean Cruiser (a two-deck seaplane with multiple compartments), they get another telegram that the show’s closed. One of them has been dating a newsman—currently on the same island but promised a big job in the Orient if he makes it back in time—and there’s also the future purser for the seaplane involved.

The mystery part is a gang of four planning to rob the seaplane and then burn it to get away. One of the gang tries to hit on the showgirl who’s not dating the newsman (and is attracted to the purser). A fight ensues.

Anyway: lots of action, accusations of gold-digging, various entanglements, and a midair robbery. In the end, of course, it all winds up well, with the newsman and one showgirl engaged and the purser—who’s now a hero, since he foiled the robbery—firmly attached to the other. It’s all fairly cute, and I’d give it $1.50, but the print’s choppy and for a couple of minutes it’s out of registration, so I’ll say $1.25.

The Devil’s Party, 1938, b&w. Ray McCarey (dir.), Victor McLaglen, William Gargan, Paul Kelly, Beatrice Roberts. 1:05.

Four semi-tough kids in Hell’s Kitchen have a club/gang of sorts, with a girl who keeps trying to join. At one point, the group—with the girl along—decide to steal some fruit from a warehouse, and the ruse used to distract the workers sets the warehouse on fire. The kid who set the fire won’t rat out the others and winds up in reform school.

Fast-forward to much later. The reformed kid now runs a Broadway night club with an illicit casino on the side. The girl is now a singer at the club. Two of the other boys—brothers—are now cops in NYPD’s “Emergency Squad” and the last one’s a priest. The group gets together once a year to remember old times (they still have the handmade gang sign); this year, it’s in the private rooms of the club owner.

Meanwhile, the club owner had sent two of his pet thugs to encourage one customer to make good on a gambling loss, and the thugs overdo it to the point of killing the customer, then dropping a sign off the roof to make it look like an accident. Naturally, the cops are sent to check out the scene—and one of them sees that the sign’s supporting rods were cleanly cut, suggesting murder, but the detectives say it was an accident. One thing leads to another, and the cop gets pushed off the roof of the building by the thugs—just another accident.

Lots more plot, as the thugs decide to enlarge their sphere of operations and, in the process, get rid of both the other cop and the club owner. Anyway, with all parties involved, the club owner—who, not unreasonably, considers himself responsible for the first two deaths—winds up dead in the process of protecting the others. Oddly enough, there’s a happy ending of sorts.

It was better than I expected, fast moving, well played, and maybe worth $1.50.

Cites & Insights 19:5 (September 2019) available

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

The September 2019 issue of Cites & Insights (19:5) is now available for downloading at

The 28-page issue–probably the last one that does not feature OA–includes:

The Front pp. 1-4

Two little essays: Why I’m not pursuing an analysis of ROAD, and “should C&I be saved?”

The Middle pp. 4-12

Nine items that didn’t fit elsewhere and don’t deserve the snarky treatment of The Back.


A range of tech-related items, some mostly nostalgia, some still relevant.

Classic 50 Movie Warriors, Disc 5

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Damon and Pythias (orig. Il tiranno di Siracusa), 1961, color. Curtis Bernhardt (dir.), Guy Williams, Don Burnett, Ilaria Occhini. 1:39.

The plot summary on the sleeve and the one on IMDB cover roughly the last third of the film, and maybe that’s OK. For the first part: the head of the Pythagorean group in Athens has died, and his logical successor is trying to teach the Pythagorean philosophy in Syracuse—and in hiding since the dictator Dionysus regards Pythagoreanism as dangerous, with its friendship and nonviolent ideals. So Pythias goes off to find him and bring him back, and in doing so is first robbed and then aided by Damon, a rogue. Meanwhile, Pythias’ pregnant wife has gone into terminal decline since he’s gone. After lots of adventures, the successor manages to make it to freedom—but Pythias is captured.

From there, the plot actually mostly follows the legend of Damon and Pythias. It’s about friendship, philosophy, and lots of other stuff. It’s reasonably well-done, remarkably free of gratuitous killings, and relatively low on the sort of spectacle that dominates most of these movies. (If you’re a costume enthusiast: almost all the men wear very short tunics, while all the women wear floor-length clothes.) I’d give it $1.00.

Fury of Hercules (orig. La furia di Ercole), 1961, color. Gianfranco Parolini (dir.), Brad Harris, Luisella Boni, Mara Berni, Serge Gainsbourg. 1:37.

A bit more typical. This time, Hercules visits Arpad, one of his old haunts while on an extended journey and finds that his friend the king has died. His daughter, now queen, is trying to build impenetrable walls around Arpad using slave labor—and things are mostly run by the evil Menistus who hopes to kill her and take over as dictators.

Lots of action, all fairly coherent, culminating in a huge revolt combining slaves and rebels. Brad Harris is impressive, and as Hercules he’s even more so. Another one with no cheesecake and even more beefcake, as Hercules’ oversize chest is mostly exposed. Serge Gainsbourg is appropriately sneering and evil as Menistus.

I was somewhat thrown out of the action during the big extravaganza the queen throws in Hercules’ honor. For background music, authenticity doesn’t matter—but when entertainers are dancing to music, it seems a bit odd for the primary instrument to be a piano. The print’s decent, except that the first five or ten minutes suffer from red shift (that is, most colors are shades of red). All things considered, a pretty decent flick; by the relaxed standards used for this set, I’ll say $1.50.

Caesar the Conqueror (orig. Giulio Cesare, il conquistatore delle Gallie), 1962, color. Tanio Boccia (dor.), Cameron Mitchell, Rik Battaglia, Dominique Wilms, Ivica Pajer, Raffaella Carra. 1:44 [1:38]

Instead of mythology, we get history (or at least one portrayal of it), with Julius Caesar (Mitchell) in 54 BC wanting to invade Britain but beset by a rebellious Gaul, led by Vercingetorix (Battaglia). There are also scenes in the Senate (mostly wanting Caesar to show up in person to justify his expenditures), and a fair amount of stuff on Caesar as a person—including an odd extended scene where he’s dictating to three young scribes, apparently dictating two different letters and his treatise on Gaul being divided into three parts, and doing so simultaneously.

And, of course, there are lots of battle scenes with enormous casts of extras, horses, and arrows. Lots of bloodshed, much of it right there on the screen—and, by the way, a double-betrayal, as the third of Gaul’s tribes that Caesar believed he had bribed to support him choose to attack him instead. There’s also a somewhat complicated love story, involving Caesar’s ward Publia (Carra), who’s pledged to one soldier, then used by Caesar to marry a commander to assure his support, then captured by Vercingetorix…and eventually reunited with the soldier.

The bad: lots of red-shift problems, with much of the movie being in various shades of white and red; extreme pan-and-scan, with speaking characters sometimes invisible on one side or the other; occasionally choppy print. The good: a bit more vividly realistic view of battle, with hundreds of people dying badly; pretty good acting on Mitchell’s part and elsewhere; a bit more nuance than one might expect. (If you read the IMDB reviews, be aware that one negative review says this was a French production. As the original title and most of the cast names may indicate, it was typical of these movies in being an Italian production, this time with most outdoor scenes filmed in Serbia.) Overall, given the print problems, it comes down to $1.25.

Son of Samson (orig. Maciste nella valle dei Re, that is, Maciste in the Valley of the Kings). 1960, color. Carlo Campogalliani (dir.), Mark Forest, Chelo Alonse, Vira Silenti. 1:29.

The basic plot line: In the fifth century BC, the Persians are marauding and essentially controlling Egypt, with Pharaoh Armiteo I a weak ruler essentially in the thralls of his young, beautiful, wicked wife Queen Smedes. His son, Kenamun, goes out wandering and encounters Maciste (who says that means “Son of the Rock” although some call him Son of Samson), a phenomenally strong and always shirtless man. Kenamun sees a lion about to attack Maciste and shoots the lion with an arrow—and then Maciste wrestles a second lion into submission or death (unclear). So they’ve saved each others’ lives. Previously, Kenamun had met and fallen for a young woman in a village and vowed to return to her one day.

That’s the start. Lots of marauding Persians, killing the men of a village and enslaving the women; oodles of “blood.” Maciste frees the enslaved women of one village (yes, the same one). Smedes has Armiteo assassinated. Kenamun returns to Memphis…and the evil grand visir has a forgetfulness necklace that causes Kenamun to forget everything and marry Smedes.

Lots more plot. Much Egyptian scenery, including the pyramids. Decent production values. Some humor. A dance/seduction that’s a cross between a Dance of the Single Veil and a vigorous belly dance. All ends well, albeit only after a bunch more deaths. Apparently Mark Forest was actually bodybuilder Lpu Degni.

Widescreeen (very widescreen, 2.35:1), and if your TV can do the expansion, the print’s good enough that it didn’t look bad expanded to fill the width (not the height) of a widescreen TV. Generally good print. Fairly satisfying, almost worth $1.75, but I’ll say—by the relaxed standards for this set–$1.50.

GOA4: August 2019 update

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

Readership for the new edition and GOAJ3. As always, readership figures omit most of the last day of each month, because of the tools available.

All links available from the project home page, as always.

GOA4: 2013-2018

  • The dataset: 249 views, 53 downloads.
  • GOA4: 1,063 PDF ebooks and one paperback.
  • Countries 4: 255 PDF ebooks
  • Subjects and Publishers: 154 PDF ebooks

GOAJ3: 2012-2017

  • The dataset: 1,510 views, 230 downloads
  • GOAJ3: 3,554 PDF ebooks + 423 copies of first few chapters (C&I 18.3)
  • Countries: 1,075 PDF ebooks
  • Subject supplement (C&I 18.4): 549 downloads
  • One paperback

Cites & Insights 19:4 (August 2019) Available

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Cites & Insights 19:4 (August 2019) is now available for downloading at

The 42-page issue consists of a single essay:

Intersections: Open Access Issues pp. 1-42

Thirty-odd items in six subtopic groups, not including items for future roundups (“preditorials,” colors and licenses, DOAJ, and Big Deals including the UC/BigE situation).

If you have to ask…

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Way back in 2016, a Media commentary in Cites & Insights included my lament about not renewing Conde Nast Traveler, in part because the new editor had adopted the “If you have to ask…” policy–that is, eliminating all mention of hotel prices, since if you have to ask…

I don’t subscribe to National Geographic Traveler, which I suppose you could call a fellow Traveler, but my wife does and I read it. We’ll probably continue to get it. But I find that I’m frustrated by the same If You Have To Ask attitude: there are lots of mentions of hotels (and cruise lines, etc.), even roundups of them…and nary a clue as to how much they cost.

My reaction to IYHTA is to assume the worst: that hotels are probably $1,000 per night or more, that resorts are probably at least $1,500, that all-inclusives are $2,000 per night or more.

Just for fun, I took one recent issue, which as usual mentioned a lot of hotels, and did quick checks: jotting down the price if it took me less than 30 seconds to find one.

Not surprisingly, my worst-case assumption is unfair to many of the hotels–and I think it’s stupid and arrogant of NGT not to include basic price info. The usual three-hotels-in-one-city feature turned out to have prices of $112, $237, and one that’s not actually open yet. Much lower than I’d have guessed, especially since this was for a major European city.

Another article had one hotel, which turns out to cost $516. Another city feature had hotels at $134, $85, and $350.

Then there was a major feature on one class of resorts around the world–and from the descriptions and total lack of information I would have guessed $2,000 a day and up. In some cases I would have been right: $2,100; $2,250; $5,000 (all inclusive). But in other cases: $950; $769; $680; $450 all inclusive; $680; $490; $630; $930 all inclusive; $1,500 all inclusive; $360; $1,333; $303; $278; $1,430; $1,719; $631. That’s quite a range…and I would have wrongly ruled out a dozen of them because I’m not willing to pay $1,000 a night for a room.

Other articles? $360; $248; $266; $241 (both of these are much lower than I would have expected); $127; $169 (ditto these two); $263; $260; $232; $531.

The point? Many of these hotels are quite reasonably priced–but there’s no way to know that, given the If You Have To Ask attitude of NGT–and especially given prices for some of NatGeo’s own tours and cruises, and their branded lodges.

Too bad. I still like NGT, but it would be a lot more interesting and useful if it included just a little more information.

GOA4: July 2019 update

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

Readership for the new edition and GOAJ3. As always, readership figures omit most of the last day of each month, because of the tools available.

All links available from the project home page, as always.

GOA4: 2013-2018

  • The dataset: 207 views, 3 downloads.
  • GOA4: 833 PDF ebooks and one paperback.
  • Countries 4: 201 PDF ebooks
  • Subjects and Publishers: 113 PDF ebooks

GOAJ3: 2012-2017

  • The dataset: 1,463 views, 195 downloads
  • GOAJ3: 3,428 PDF ebooks + 405 copies of first few chapters (C&I 18.3)
  • Countries: 1,044 PDF ebooks
  • Subject supplement (C&I 18.4): 517 downloads
  • One paperback

Mystery Collection Disc 49

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Hmm. The reviews for Disc 50 appeared on July 3, 2018–one year and 23 days ago. (The discs got out of order in the 60-disc box.) But the, the reviews for a disc from the Warriors set appeared in late July, 2018, so it looks as though it’s taken me a bit less than a year to review these four movies–actually two movies some time during the fall of 2018, and two movies within the last month.

At this rate, I should be done with discs 49-54 by 2023 or 2027…let’s just say that it’s unlike that I’ll complete C&I publication of these old reviews of either collection (or the Spaghetti Westerns collection not yet begun). Too many books to read, too much other stuff to watch, too many walks to take…and from January through June, for a while longer I hope, too much OA investigation to do. Oh, and the new and deproved WP is a nuisance, and no longer seems to accept direct posting from Word. In fact, I’m finding it damnably difficult to cut & paste into the new and improved WordPress… But here’s what I have…

The Beloved Rogue, 1927, b&w. Alan Crosland (dir.), John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, Marceline Day. 1:39.

I find this one a little difficult to review and rate, and I grant that the dollar value I assign may be faulty as a result. The problem here is that this is a silent movie (there’s a classical music soundtrack that’s not in any way related to the action), and given that I’m not much of a lip-reader, I felt there was a lot I was missing in between title slides.

I guess this is supposed to be historical (but based on a drama with no historical backing), with John Barrymore as François Villon, it comes off as half farce, half near-tragedy, with Barrymore more successful as a clown (and wall-climber). Most of the poems shown on screen struck me as doggerel. Barrymore comes off as a great ham, and that may be intentional.

The print is generally pretty good, but I found it less than entrancing. That may be me. I couldn’t give it more than $1.00.

Submarine Alert, 1943, b&w. Frank McDonald (dir.), Richard Arlen, Wendy Barrie. 1:06.

While it’s a wartime propaganda film, as evidenced by the closing speech, it’s also a pretty decent little spy thriller. The basic plot: all the tankers taking fuel to the fleet are being torpedoed by subs shortly after they leave port—and when the FBI figures out that they must be getting radio tipoffs and starts trying to locate the transmitter, they find that it’s in a different location every night.

So, I guess figuring out that a miniaturized 1943 transmitter is going to break down a lot, they see to it that key radio engineers are fired, figuring that one of them will be recruited to make replacement parts.

There’s lots more, including a little girl needing an operation, a young woman who gets close to the prime candidate for recruitment (a recent immigrant from—gasp—Germany) and is working for the FBI—and clumsy in leaving around a very obviously unique handbag, so he’s on to her. Oh, and using a loudspeaker and overhead light as a makeshift transmitter.

Light on stereotypes, fairly well-acted, lots of plot, lots of action. Incidentally, a few of the IMDB reviews are loony (e.g. one that turns steam into poison gas and more than one saying the firings were because of suspected disloyalty), which isn’t that unusual. Not great but maybe $1.25.

Captain Scarface, 1953, b&w. Paul Guilfoyle (dir.), Barton MacLaine, Virginia Gray, Leif Erickson. 1:12 [1:10]

Here’s the thing: for various reasons, I wound up watching Disc 50 before Disc 49—and I see that I began watching Disc 50 considerably more than a year ago. And Submarine Alert most likely more than six months ago. So don’t be surprised by various discontinuities and changes in rating scale, just as you shouldn’t be surprised if this massive collection isn’t finished before Cites & Insights is.

The sleeve summary is absolutely wrong. It says Captain “Scarface” Trednor uncovers a plot by foreign agents to destroy the Panama Canal (by detonating an atomic bomb on a cargo ship in Gatun Locks) and “decides to fight for what’s right.” In fact, Captain Tred is the leader of the foreign agents who have replaced one ship with another; it’s Sam Wilton, a guy who’s a little too romantic for his own good and needs to get back to the U.S., who saves the day. Anyway, it involves replacing one (torpedoed) ship with another, a crew from several countries (apparently) that’s entirely Russian spies eager to undertake a suicide mission in order to inconvenience Western shipping, a nuclear scientist who’s been cooped up in a Russian—well, not a prison—and is one of only two people who know how to detonate the bomb that’s hidden on this ship, his daughter, and…well, it’s silly but it moves right along.

It’s not a terrible movie. It’s not a great movie by any means, but it’s not terrible. The print’s decent. I’ll give it $1.00.

Under the Red Robe, 1937, b&w. Victor Sjöström (dir.), Conrad Veidt, Raymond Massey, Annabella, Romney Brent. 1:20.

I wonder how many movies and TV shows have been set in the era of Cardinal Richelieu? Well, here’s another, with the estimable Raymond Massey in the red robe—but the star is Conrad Veidt, the notorious dueler and gambler Gil de Berault, sentenced to hanging for disobeying Richelieu’s edict against duels—but open to pardon if he captures the rebellious Duke de Foix. (The IMDB record consistently uses “Fiox,” but the signs on the screen unmistakably say “Foix,” and there is, in fact, a Foix in France.)

The most interesting character is the sidekick foisted on Berault by the Cardinal, an expert pickpocket who adds a mild comic touch. There’s Annabella as the duke’s sister (who Berault mistakenly assumes is the duke’s wife), who of course falls in love with Berault. Lots of talk, some action, much discussion of honor and a happy ending of sorts. Decent, but nothing special—another $1.00.

Cites & Insights 19:3 (July 2019) available

Friday, July 19th, 2019

The July 2019 Cites & Insights (19:3) is now available for downloading at

This 48-page issue includes the following:

Policy: A Copyright Miscellany pp. 1-33

Four years of items on First Sale, Public Domain and CC0, Piracy and Nostalgia.

The Back pp. 33-48

A year’s worth of audiofollies and a variety of other items from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

GOA4: June Update

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Readership for the new edition and GOAJ3. As always, readership figures omit most of the last day of each month, because of the tools available.

All links available from the project home page, as always.

GOA4: 2013-2018

  • The dataset: 153 views, 25 downloads.
  • GOA4: 721 PDF ebooks and one paperback.
  • Countries 4: 173 PDF ebooks
  • Subjects and Publishers: 55 PDF ebooks

GOAJ3: 2012-2017

  • The dataset: 1,412 views, 179 downloads
  • GOAJ3: 3,328 PDF ebooks + 391 copies of first few chapters (C&I 18.3)
  • Countries: 997 PDF ebooks
  • Subject supplement (C&I 18.4): 493 downloads
  • One paperback