Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review of "Audie Murphy: Great American Hero," an A & E Biography, VHS version

Review of
Audie Murphy: Great American Hero, an A & E Biography, VHS version

Five out of five stars
 The list of combat accomplishments and medals awarded to Audie Murphy is incredible, he was a very brave soldier, the kind that win wars, whether or not they survive them. Like many men growing up in the Depression, life for him and his family was very hard, as his sister testifies, it was fortunate that young Audie was so proficient at hunting squirrels and rabbits, for many times that was all his family had to eat.
 He was the son of a sharecropper in Texas, when his father suddenly left the large family, Murphy was forced to quit school after the fifth grade to help support his mother and siblings. When the war clouds gathered and the storm broke out, like so many poor boys, Murphy was eager to join the military. He was too young and tried to enlist several times, finally managing to join the Army with the help of his older sister who falsified documents about his age.
 After the war, even though he was laden with medals, Murphy struggled to make ends meet until he managed to take lessons and get acting work. It was slow at first, but eventually he became a popular star of western movies. Murphy also demonstrated other talents, he wrote quality poetry and has several songwriting credits.
 It is not surprising that Murphy suffered from what was then called “combat fatigue” or “shell shock” and is now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He generally slept with a loaded gun under his pillow and suffered from flashback nightmares so severe that he needed pills in order to get any sleep. After becoming addicted to them, he locked himself in a hotel room for several days and went through a cold turkey withdrawal.
 This video is an excellent recapitulation of the life of Murphy, his rise from extreme poverty with minimal education to war hero to his success and difficulties after his discharge. Despite his popularity as a film star, Murphy struggled in many ways, openly describing his problems in dealing with his war experiences.
 If there is a weak point in this video, it is that there is not enough coverage of Murphy’s battle with PTSD. While it is discussed and there is mention of his talk of suicide, more time could have been spent on Murphy’s attempts to draw attention to the mental struggles of veterans returning from the wars. Wounded several times, the greatest wound Murphy suffered was mental and the one he never recovered from.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review of "The Undefeated," starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson

Review of
The Undefeated, starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson VHS version of the movie

Four out of five stars
 The American Civil War has just ended and this story features two Colonels that fought on opposite sides. The John Wayne character fought on the Union side and his immediate plan after discharge is to take the surviving members of his unit west, round up a large herd of wild horses and deliver them to agents of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico.
 The Rock Hudson character is facing foreclosure on his plantation and is the leader of a band of men and families that refuse to accept the defeat of the Confederacy. They store away a great deal of arms in wagons and then form a wagon train that is bound for Mexico after an invitation to settle there is offered by Emperor Maximilian.
 The two forces encounter each other and join forces to fight off a bandit gang. A tentative alliance is formed, yet they part ways. When the forces in rebellion against the Mexican Emperor triumph in the area, the plans of both the Wayne and Hudson groups are destroyed and they somehow must find a way to survive in what is now a hostile land with more than one force that they must do battle with.
 The action is at times very predictable, especially the campwide brawl that lacks only the surrounding context of a bar to be a cliché of the western. There are some points of humor, yet very little tension, for the outcome is clear from the moment the situation has been established. Despite this, it is good, clean western entertainment.  

Review of "They’ve Put Custard With My Bone," by Murray Ball

Review of
They’ve Put Custard With My Bone, by Murray Ball 0864640188

Four out of five stars
 The humor in this book is based on life on a farm with a set of cantankerous animals. The main character is known as “Dog” and there is a very nasty and dominant feral tomcat. A great deal of the content will not be understandable to the person with no knowledge of what is done on a farm. For example, there is the passage where the farmer hands a newborn lamb to the prim lady next door.
 Other passages reference little lambs being docked, open-air butchering and the struggles of an old ram to create the next generation of lambs. Old farm hands will be amused by the events of success and failure on the farm lampooned in this book. Some readers will at times have no idea what is being referenced.