What would McGarrett do?

May 19, 2012

Lately, I’ve been watching Hawaii Five-O during my daily treadmill exercise.  At first, it was just a fun bit of nostalgia as I used to watch the show as a kid in the late 60’s.  I thought it was dumb then, with its outrageous spy plots, the unerring McGarrett, and the predictable plots, but watching it today, I like the production values, the mens’ suits, and the bright color of the scenes.

Now, after seeing a season, I begin to fathom the true appeal of Five-O:  McGarrett is a spiritual guide, a guru figure.  He’s always calm, only losing his cool when one of his men is injured by a crook.  He is deeply humane:  gently leading a serial murder psychopath he has apprehended away to the looney bin, without gloating or celebration.  He feels the pain of the victims he interviews:  the flicker of muscle movement on his face shows it.  Women are drawn to him, but he does not pursue them.  He is witty, and enjoys the philosophical games of crime solving.

McGarrett’s arch-enemy is the Red Chinese agent, Wo Fat, with whom he spars on many episodes, holding up the USA end of the cold war game.  The Chinese spymaster is no match for Steve.  (He is played by New Jersey native, Kenneth Dickerson, aka Khigh Dheigh, who is of north African descent – not Chinese – and who created a foundation for the study of Taoism late in life.)  They are an entertaining pair.


FANG!!!

October 24, 2009

fang

RIP Soupy Sales.

If anyone has the lyrics to “Catch a pickled herring, put it in your pocket…” I’d be most grateful.


Why did you resign? Who is No. 1?

June 7, 2008

I have posted on The Prisoner before, but the show continues to occupy a prominent place in my pop-cult consciousness, and it keeps coming up in odd places. The opening sequence is tremendous, combining as it does adventure, mystery, and the awful weight of obsessive nightmare, the endless replaying of the “resignation scene.” There he is – cool, angry, totally self-confident – swinging open the doors to the evil sanctum to set himself free, or so he believes.

“Why did you resign?” That one little question distills the essence of the totalitarian program. Just tell us that (and then you will tell us whatever we want to know.) And The Prisoner, now known as No. 6, replies with the obvious rejoinder, “Who is No.1?” He never breaks, and they never give up – the game goes on for about 17 episodes. We never see No. 1, not really, until the end. We never find out why The Prisoner is No. 6 - where are No.s 3, 4, and 5? .  No. 2 runs the village…

I remember when I first heard of this show – I was in elementary school, and a friend who watched a lot more TV at later hours than was permitted me told me of a very “weird show,” in which a “big blob” patrolled an island, and attacked anyone who tried to escape. When I finally saw it, I was hooked for life. This doesn’t necessarily put me in good company. I don’t believe that this show is a piece of deeply complex philosophy – I don’t think it warrants exegesis on a par with what scholars give the works of Dante, and I don’t even think most of the episodes are all that good, but the idea of it, and Patrick McGoohan, are great.

The show is cast in the mold of a standard adventure series, but it has a very large dollop of satire and sly wit thrown in, along with some sci-fi aspects, many of them pretty hokey. The quality of the episodes varies wildly from awful (The General) to absolutely exquisitely developed (A, B, & C). These two, my least and most favorite, have the odd circumstance of using the same actor to play No.2. Usually a different actor takes the role each show, indicative of the displeasure of No. 1 at their inability to break No. 6. The form of the shows varies as well – some are straightforward adventure, but often with a very clever twist (The Chimes of Big Ben), some are more satirical (Free for All, the episode in which No. 6 runs for the office of No. 2: “So, No. 6, will you run?” “Like hell, first chance I get.” Always joking…) , some are like fantasy-fables (The Girl Who Was Death)

My favorite, A, B, & C is the story of an attempt to break No. 6 by drugging him and manipulating his dreams. The three letters refer to three individuals whom No. 2 is convinced may hold the key to why No. 6 resigned. In a series of dreams, which they have the technology to project onto a large screen and into which they can inject themselves, No. 2 and his assistant try to prod No. 6 into giving something away. They fail of course – or is there nothing to give away? Did he just resign because he was sick of his job? Was he really just going on vacation?

In desparation, No. 2 gives a super dose to The Prisoner, and the dream takes on the giddy, crazy aspect of a classic 60’s hallucinatory experience, complete with a posh party a la 007, and corny pop music. It culminates in a confrontation in a dark plaza that is as great a surrealist set piece as anything Bunuel ever did, and the denoument is devilishly clever, as No. 2 watches the dream, and then watches No. 6 walk out of the dream, past him, and back to the village. Then…cut to the endless replay of the doors swinging open in that dark room in London…


El Pantera – La Monja

May 27, 2008

I was flipping through cable TV the other night, and I hit on a Spanish language crime show. It features some lean, handsome young guy with spiky hair who rides a Harley chopper and hangs out with an old, hatted, portly detective. The show, The Panther, I have since learned is based on a comic strip, and it always takes place in Mexico City. I was intrigued because it had unusual editing, used split images, and the atmospherics were highly unusual for a TV crime series – very noir.

The video sequence above is a series of stills from the first crime in the show. Apologies for the quality – I couldn’t find a clean way to get this posted.

The woman enters a large, ancient church to steal antiquities. She is surprised by a priest, and she shoots him! She delivers the loot to her boss outside, and then makes her way…where? Is that a dance show? That 60s style decor?! Who are those women watching her as she strips her nun’s habit and does her sexy dance? Why is she there?

The feel of this sequence struck me as if Bunuel had been employed doing TV serials. And the theme of the sexy, murderous nun – such imagery is lacking to us denizens of protestant countries.  And she is murderous – later on in the episode she hacks a woman to death, and uses a paper cutter to decapitate a scholarly gentleman.

The episode is called “The Nun”, but it  makes me think of another bloodthirsty, gothic celibate, Matthew Gregory Lewis’s creation, The Monk!)

If there are any Spanish speaking viewers out there who are familiar with this episode (no.5) please explain!


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