Writer-director Karlton Clay adapts his own stage play for the screen, with Mar’Ques Woolford in the title role as an arrogant, hypocritical preacher who has stumbled into sin, becoming more preoccupied with material gain and sexual gratification than shepherding the souls in his congregation. “When are they gonna realize they gotta take care of their man of God?” he demands, frustrated with the modesty of the collection plate: “If I ain’t right, they ain’t gone be right!” Thorne is successful, but seems to have crested as his ministry stagnates. Idealistic minister Nathan (Donald Ross, Jr.), who handles the books, has ideas to offer about how to grow the church and better serve the community, but Thorne, whose manhood is “so big and long Moses could’ve used that to part the Red Sea”, is more interested in screwing Nathan’s trashy wife (Kiara Bennett) behind his back. Meanwhile, also vying for the pastor’s amorous attentions is Sade (Caranita Harrelson), a mysterious hood seductress with an “ass so nice she’ll make you talk in tongues, cuz.” “You used to be so on-fire for Christ,” Pastor Thorne’s long-suffering spouse (Lakeisha Sherron) reminds him. Cocksure and boastful that “people are eatin’ off my words”, Thorne thinks his wife needs to “sit back, shut up, and support your damn man”. Will his marriage weather the rising hellstorm? Will Thorne succeed in putting out the multiplying fires engulfing his ministry? Clay keeps the story engaging, so that black and crossover audiences will enjoy finding out how it all ends.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Pastor Thorne: Lust of the Flesh is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Anti-slut. Sade turns out to have syphilis, which Thorne has presumably contracted as a result of their tryst.

Anti-drug. Thorne’s son (Mitchel Corley), a budding rapist and aspiring drug kingpin, gets busted for peddling dope and is only saved from conviction on account of his father’s rapport with the chief of police.

Christian. While some might object that Pastor Thorne: Lust of the Flesh presents an unflattering depiction of church life, the film serves as a cautionary tale in depicting the consequences for those who stray from the faith. Moreover, as recent church drama illustrates, Pastor Thorne grapples with problems actually confronting today’s congregations.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

This new COVIDsploitation quickie utilizes the pretext of a high school corona outbreak and a remote learning regimen to get away with only paying four actors to play students, with no pesky extras required. Brian Austin Green stars as Mr. Dunbar, a middle-aged history teacher coping with “rage issues” in the aftermath of the breakup of his marriage. Stuck at home alone and drinking excessively as he half-asses his lessons for a handful of disrespectful airheads, Dunbar also has an obvious crush on a cute girl in his class. When he overhears his students mocking him in a Zoom chat and plotting an impromptu party at the deserted school building, Dunbar finally snaps and decides to pop a quiz on their uppity asses, subjecting them to a night class in horror.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Last the Night is:

Anti-masktard. Dunbar’s snarky ex-wife (Eve Mauro) reprimands him for not wearing a mask outside because “the optics matter”.

Anti-drug. A school security guard (Glenn Plummer) gets high in the parking lot, leaving him unprepared to save the students or himself.

Multicultural, featuring a too-obviously box-ticking diversity cast: sassy Hispanic guy Miguel (David Valdes); Asian social justice warrioress Genesis (Julia Quang); mild-mannered mohawked black dude Trevor (Acoryé White); and pretty and bright but naïve white girl Sadie (Makena Taylor). Not very realistically, students from four different ethnic backgrounds are depicted as forming a fairly close and cooperative unit, enjoying each other’s company.

Pro-miscegenation, grossing out viewers with unnecessary and thankfully interrupted flirtation between Sadie and Trevor.   

Anti-gun. “I’m one of the good guys, too,” the murderous Dunbar tells police, seeing himself as the proverbial good guy with a gun.

Anti-family. Dunbar’s violent rampage validates his ex-wife’s desire to separate him from their daughter.

Anti-woke and anti-white. Indicative of the gradual shift away from the vitriolic rhetoric of the awokening of 2020, Last the Night depicts the knee-jerk parroters of woke ideology as historically illiterate brats. Genesis, for example, who scolds Mr. Dunbar for not using gender-neutral language, thinks JFK had sex with his slaves and that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Abraham Lincoln. Miguel, meanwhile, offers the insightful observation that “George Washington was a bitch.” “Guys,” Dunbar interjects, “can we not degrade the president, the first president of the United States?” The teacher’s Founding Fathers apologism, the presence of a Tom Clancy novel on his desk, and his positive view of the Second Amendment mark him as a conservative of masculine aspirations, and Last the Night, functioning as a low-budget Falling Down for the 2020s, reflects a liberal apprehension of the potential danger of white men being provoked into disinvesting from the American system and ineffectual conservatism. The allegorical game Dunbar plays with the teens is “capture the flag”, the struggle for America’s future identity taking place in a school building abandoned by authority and where a largely non-white student body asserts: “We run this bitch!” Dunbar, in going postal – or educational, as it were – reinforces the Merrick Garland narrative that disgruntled, right-wing white men constitute the greatest terror threat in America, and Last the Night makes the modest suggestion that maybe it would be better to stop poking them so much.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

As I was watching The Batman (has titling of DC movies been outsourced to foreigners?), I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for the kids who excitedly went into this thing hoping to be entertained. Probably the gloomiest, most morose superhero adventure ever filmed, The Batman is a murkily monotone, piss-tinted brooder better suited to audiences of small-souled, infantilized, and reality-allergic millennials than to little boys expecting to thrill to the Caped Crusader swinging from a grappling hook. Not even the supervillains are colorful, with the Riddler (Paul Dano) relegated to a black sadomasochistic Gimp suit, while star Robert Pattinson appears content to remain as immobile, sad-faced, and uncharismatic as possible in the role of “The”. And did the world really need a three-hour movie about some depressed billionaire in a cape? What sense does it make that, as people’s attention spans have shriveled, movies have gotten so goddamned long? Flaws aside, The Batman does achieve some moments of tension and effective atmosphere, even if it feels like writer-director Matt Reeves was more interested in remaking David Fincher’s Seven.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Batman is:

Anti-racist, specifically bolstering the 2020-2021 “Stop AAPI Hate” campaign, with a scene of a gang of apparently Mestizo criminals in face paint assailing a nerdy Asian man before Batman intervenes.

Affirmatively action-packed, pro-miscegenation, and anti-white, boasting not just a high-yella Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), but also a black Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) who helps the protagonist in his investigation of the corruption of the “white-privileged males” derided by Catwoman. It is just after she speaks this line, in fact, that Batman, apparently impressed with her commitment to racial justice, first kisses her. Perhaps mindful of the danger posed to her kind by curiosity, Catwoman’s sass is silent on the subject of the Jewish privilege enjoyed by the likes of Warner Brothers head Michael De Luca or Zoe Kravitz’s own grandfather, TV news producer Sy Kravitz.

Elitist. The Batman, utilizing the microcosm of Gotham City, acknowledges the dishonesty and corruption of America’s plutocracy and presents two representative models of redress. The Riddler, a dorky, resentful nobody who develops an online populist following with his muckraking journalism and call to vengeance, can be interpreted as vaguely echoing such phenomena from recent history as Anonymous, the Alt-Right, Wikileaks, etc. In Bruce Wayne, The Batman offers Hollywood’s favored alternative: elite self-policing through altruistic billionaire activism and civic engagement. Both figures operate outside the law, but Wayne is depicted as the more ethical, responsible, and deserving figure, whereas the grimy populist masses energized by the Riddler are prone to sadistic violence, murder, and incel terrorism. Inherent, too, is a critique of alternative media, which – even if it can reveal forbidden truths about a deeply flawed and disgusting ruling class – also carries the threat of inciting forces of social chaos. On the other hand, as Batman’s vigilante venture illustrates, elite secretiveness sometimes shields the integrity of sensitive activities that benefit the public – or so this movie would have viewers believe.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Inspired by the Disneyland boat ride, Jungle Cruise is a passable adventure vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who stars as roguish river tour guide Frank Wolff, a hustler with a mysterious past and a penchant for telling corny jokes. Emily Blunt costars as Lily Houghton, the de rigueur plucky, independent woman in pants (gasp!) who handily outwits and out-acrobats the men around her as, like a distaff Indiana Jones, she seeks the storied “tears of the moon”, an herbal panacea that could change the course of history. Set during the First World War, the film features as its antagonists mandatory evil German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) and a crew of supernaturally reanimated Spanish conquistadores. Coming from Disney, the whole thing has the annoying CGI sheen of unreality, but it did make me chuckle a couple of times.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Jungle Cruise is:

Gay. Tagging along with Frank and Lily is the latter’s homosexual brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall). Coming out to Frank, MacGregor explains that he has no plans to marry because his “interests lie elsewhere” – prompting ally Frank to drink a toast to “elsewhere”.

Pro-animal, with Lily expressing disapproval of monkeys being kept in a cage. Her brother, meanwhile, winces at the sight of men gambling on a fight staged between a tarantula and a scorpion in a tavern. Frank also has an affectionate relationship with his intelligent jaguar companion Proxima. The insensitive Prince Joachim, by contrast, is depicted smashing bees with his hand.

Anti-racist. Frank warns Lily that they are going into “headhunter territory – a terrible place to be headed”; but, as Jungle Cruise reveals, there are no real cannibals on the Amazon, and the Indians’ blow dart attacks and displays of savagery are just an act they put on to play to European tourists’ bigoted expectations. In a climactic sequence reminiscent of Total Recall, Frank and Lily must activate a complex of ancient technology with the power to heal the world – the existence of which suggests that the pre-Columbian civilization of the region was far more advanced than the science of modern Europeans.

Feminist. The benevolent tribe of jungle Indians is led by a woman (Veronica Falcon).

Anti-white, with Disney’s vitriol directed specifically at heterosexual white men as MacGregor denounces a stodgy British anthropological society as a bunch of “crusty old farts” – with a gallery of white women applauding this remark and demonstrating their LGBTBIMONKEYPOC solidarity. In addition, the German and Spanish villains represent the unfortunate European inclination to imperialism and even Nazism as Prince Joachim’s martial affinity for Richard Wagner hints. That much is to be expected, but did the world really need a melodramatic flashback to a genocidal conquistador depredation set to Disneyfied Metallica?

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Americans’ traditional associations with rural Ireland include beautiful green hillsides, the quaint charms of village life, John Ford’s The Quiet Man, and Irish Spring commercials – positive, pristine imagery that conveys the unspoiled – but a consequence of the global ubiquity of Hollywood is that Ireland, following decades’ ingestion of pop-cultural junk food, instead imitates a condescending American model of self-presentation. In Hillwalkers, writer-director-producer Tom Cosgrove transplants the hackneyed psychotic hillbillies genre to a boggy countryside with the expected results. In short, this is a movie viewers will have seen several times before, with the difference that this time the characters have sprightly accents and call each other “cunt”.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Hillwalkers is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Antifascist. One of the killers initially appears in a helmet and skull mask evocative of Siege-posting.

Urbanite. The countryside is like another planet or “like being on the moon” as one of the characters puts it. Cut off from civilization and means of communication with the outside world – the luddite hillbilly moon men have disabled a 5G installation – the protagonists are more vulnerable than they would be in a city. In geographic isolation, people become mentally ill, distrustful, “inbred”, and violent. Somewhat undercutting the anti-rustic message of the film, however, is the line, “Where I live [in the city], people are worse than you [hicks].”

Family-ambivalent. “Most people decide not to have kids these days,” protagonist Miriam (Aoife Honohan) observes, because of “the state of the world”. No judgment is attached to this remark, nor is “the state of the world” further elaborated, but Miriam herself hopes to have a child despite the infertility of her husband, Ray (Eoin O’Sullivan). Ray overcomes his initial objection to the idea of a sperm donor and eventually dies, ensuring that he will not only not father Miriam’s baby, but will play no role in raising the child, either. Militating against the idea of the family as a set of connections with inherent value are the hillbillies, who finally turn on each other.

Imperfectly feminist. Ben (Shane Connellan), referring to his friend’s inability to produce children, dismisses Ray as a “useless fucker”. Both Ray and Ben represent failures of masculinity – Ray because he is infertile and Ben as a pampered, ineffectual, and sexually unappealing complainer who at one point is scolded for giving strangers a “gay wave”. Ben, conscious of his deficiencies, acknowledges the ascendancy of “alpha females” like Miriam, who as a successful businesswoman is accustomed to negotiating “multi-million-euro deals”. “That splinter could have gone right into your man bag [i.e., scrotum] and it wouldn’t have mattered,” Ben tells Ray: “We are witnessing, in quite a literal sense, our downfall – thanks to you.” Hillwalkers suggests that masculinity is useful, but that, given men’s failure to rise to the occasion, more than equally capable women are obligated to assert themselves in their stead. Undermining the theme of female empowerment, however, is that captive Miriam is rescued in a dying act of heroism on Ray’s part.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Hardly as awful as many have claimed, Marvel’s Morbius is an okay addition to the subgenre of horror-flavored superhero movies in the tradition of Darkman (1990), Blade (1998), and Hellboy (2004). Jared Leto capably hobbles, broods, and bites in the role of Michael Morbius, a brilliant but debilitated scientist with a blood disease whose solution – infusing himself with bat DNA – restores him to health of a sort but also curses him with a thirst for gore. Matt Smith, meanwhile, hams it up as Milo, Morbius’s similarly afflicted childhood friend who, instead of attempting to help humanity, takes the darker path of seeking vengeance against the normal majority of humanity, with a Magneto/Professor X dynamic prevailing between them. Morbius is nothing special, but no more revolting than the typical comic book movie.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Morbius is:

Pseudo-feminist. A sexist mercenary refers to a female doctor as “nurse” and shortly thereafter is murdered by Morbius. Screenwriters Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama betray their lack of commitment to female empowerment, however, by white-knighting and not allowing the doctor to roll up her sleeves Rosie-style and execute the man herself.

Secular, championing science and dismissing traditional Christian vampire lore.

Pro-police. Milo massacres several policemen – described as “unforgivable”.

Gay – but not too gay. “We haven’t had anything this good since that thing in San Francisco,” observes Agent Rodriguez (Al Madrigal), tasked with investigating a series of homicidal suckings. Vicious vampire bats welcome Morbius “like a brother” and leave him unharmed, alluding to homosexuals’ affinity and value to Jews as a key constituency of the coalition of the fringes. Morbius is not the first vampire story to invite interpretation as an allegory about homosexuality and AIDS – the David Bowie bloodsucker classic The Hunger (1983) comes to mind – and it is undeniable that the hero and villain are both subtextually queer, with Jared Leto’s previous high-profile performance as “Rayon” in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) lending the star a built-in homoerotic resonance, while Matt Smith’s star turn in Mapplethorpe (2018) speaks for itself. Milo and Morbius meet as wimpy, bullied British schoolboys, and their ambiguous friendship persists into adulthood, as does their poor health, with neither fellow having married or even pursued a love life, apparently. Milo discourages Morbius from falling in love with fellow physician Martine (Adria Arjona) and looks on resentfully from a distance as they share a kiss. “Michael doesn’t accept what he is,” Milo explains, threatening: “I’m going to make him accept it.” After taking the same bat serum as his erstwhile companion and gaining the same set of vampiric abilities, Milo wants to “have some fun” and take out his frustration on heteronormativity. “All our lives we’ve lived with death hanging over us,” the sissy exults: “Why, why shouldn’t they know what it feels like for a change?” Milo thus stands for the bake-me-a-gay-cake-bigot extremist and vengeful homosexual supremacist, whereas bisexual moderate Morbius examples what The Daily Shoah recently dubbed the “reasonable gays”. In Milo, Morbius cautions about the potential danger posed by unleashed predatory homosexual ultras to the coherence of the coalition of the fringes and the success of the Jewish project.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

A bargain-basement prison-superhero genre hybrid, Corrective Measures is set in a world devastated by the emergence of Marvel-style “enhanced humans” and by a planet-wrecking catastrophe known as “the Pulse”. In response, a special mutant-containment prison, San Tiburon, has been established. With no single protagonist, Corrective Measures functions as an ensemble piece and as a showcase for some decent monster masks, throwaway fights, and tolerable CGI set to a cheesy blues soundtrack. In a supporting role as the Lobe, the most mysterious and formidable of the prisoners, Bruce Willis spends most of his limited screen time sitting by himself in a cell, looking tired, and making a few smart-ass remarks.

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Corrective Measures is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Media-critical, with a news broadcast uncritically repeating a false story from prison officials.

Anti-capitalistic. A corporation is alleged to have engineered the problem of super-criminals to justify the establishment of private-sector specialized prisons to house them.

Pedophobic. “What’s worse than ants in your pants? Your uncle!”

Christ-ambivalent. It is not entirely clear whether ultraviolent Christian convict Payback (Dan Payne) is supposed to be a likable character. He comes across as a fanatic as he smears a cross on his face with blood or spouts lines like, “I am the alpha and the omega” and “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”, but he emerges victorious in the end, his faith clearly an asset of some sort. His American flag tattoo, as well, seems to indicate that he is somehow a representative American, and may be designed to inspire patriotic viewers’ identification with him. Militating against the attribution of Christian sympathies to Corrective Measures, however, is the observation of prisoner Gordon Tweedy (Tom Cavanagh) that, “if there’s a higher power,” the Lobe is “never getting out.” If Tweedy is right, then Lobe’s eventual escape suggests that there is, in fact, no “higher power”.

Misandrist and anti-white. Officer Morales (Kat Ruston), the toughest of the guards, is repeatedly depicted pummeling white men – even beating Tweedy to death. This is presumably justified, however, by Tweedy’s previous reference to a black guard as a “big gorilla”. Representing the capable but long-suffering and exhausted black woman is the prison’s administrative assistant Felicia Johnson (Celia Aloma), who struggles to break into the (implicitly white) “boys’ club” of prison administration. Devlin (Michael Rooker), San Tiburon’s warden, is a southerner who prefers the title “Overseer”, which is clearly meant to evoke the South’s legacy of slavery, giving an implied racial tinge to Devlin’s decision to appoint one of the white guards as his successor and snub the obviously more qualified Felicia.  

Anti-Semitic! Bruce Willis’s character, Julius “The Lobe” Loeb, is a super-smart financial criminal and mind-controller whose foul deeds include manipulating a woman into massacring her family – perpetuating the hateful canard of Jews as money-grubbing swindlers and diabolical puppet masters. Switching bodies with Devlin at the end of the movie, the Lobe sees to it that Felicia gets the promotion, further endorsing the narrative that Jews in positions of power promote black advancement at the expense of whites. Shame on Tubi for furnishing a platform for such unabashed, pitchfork-brandishing Jew-hatred – may they boil eternally in a cauldron of the Hitlerian shit they host!

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Julie (Renate Reinsve), an immature Norwegian millennial, hardly lives up to the movie’s title, but she can frequently seem “not good”, as Lou Reed once described a muse. Vapid and prone to “flake out every six months”, Julie even in her late twenties is unprepared for the demands of adulthood and wastes her time wondering, for example, “Can you be a feminist and still enjoy being mouth-fucked?” “Sometimes, I just want to feel things,” she defends her lack of commitment. Following Julie’s relationships with comic book artist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) and café server Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), The Worst Person in the World is an effective cautionary tale for those who think they have forever to begin taking life seriously.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Worst Person in the World is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Multiculturalist. Immigrants appear fully integrated into an orderly multiethnic Norwegian society.

Anti-drug. Julie hallucinates under the influence of mushrooms, makes a fool of herself, and wakes up with menstrual blood smeared on her cheeks, and Eivind’s pretentious girlfriend Sunniva (Maria Grazia di Meo) participates in a psychedelic spiritual rite in which initiates take “mind-expanding substances” and vomit.

Anti-feminist. Julie comes across as shallow and merely imitative in complaining about “mansplaining”, and a pair of feminist talk show hosts appear as humorless exemplars of cancel culture. Julie’s ridiculous idea of asserting herself as a woman, meanwhile, is urinating and farting in front of a man or flinging a used tampon at a vision of her unsupportive father. The film is not only critical of women, however, and offers examples of men failing in their masculine roles.

Anti-woke. Parodying bourgeois white self-hatred, Sunniva embodies the “sum of Western guilt” and enthusiastically embraces a “newfound identity” after taking a DNA test and discovering that she is “3.1% Sami”.

Green-skeptical, with climate hysteria serving as a pretext for browbeating Europeans (“As she became increasingly militant,” Sunniva “saw how climate change was hurting indigenous people”) and discouraging procreation (“Eivind didn’t want kids either. Climate researchers foresaw hard times for future generations. Overpopulation was the reason everything was falling apart”).

Natalist. In one of Julie’s self-centered fantasies, the world comes to a stop as she rushes between the figures frozen around her. What she ultimately learns, however, is that time waits for no one – certainly not women suckered into postponing motherhood so they can “feel things”. Julie resists older lover Aksel’s desire to form a family and eventually leaves him for the less demanding Eivind. “The saddest thing,” Aksel warns her, “is one day, you’ll want kids.” Later, as he is dying of cancer, Aksel ruminates on the emptiness of the Gen-X bugman’s existence: “I grew up in an age without Internet and mobile phones. […] The world that I knew has disappeared. For me it was all about going to stores. Record stores. […] Leaf through used comics […] I grew up in a time when culture was passed along through objects. They were interesting because we could live among them. We could pick them up. Hold them in our hands. Compare them. […] That’s all I have. I spent my life doing that. Collecting all that stuff, comics, books … And … I just continued, even when it stopped giving me the powerful emotions I felt in my early 20s. I continued anyway. And … now it’s all I have left. Knowledge and memories of stupid, futile things nobody cares about.” Having become pregnant by Eivind, Julie decides, “I’m glad I’m pregnant” – only to then have a miscarriage. After depriving Aksel of perhaps his last chance to become a father, Julie also breaks up with Eivind, who eventually forms a family with another woman. Julie, as the film’s epilogue last glimpses her, has achieved a degree of success as a photographer, but sits alone at a computer – one assumes, filled with regret.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Seeking further information on Laurence Merrick – the IDF officer and Hollywood stage and film producer whose activities link Sharon Tate, the Manson Family, Vincent Bugliosi, and possibly even the JFK assassination nexus, as detailed in “The Merrick Connection Revisited” – I consulted a 2016 profile of Merrick’s wife, Joan Huntington, in the pages of Filmfax. Among the anecdotes Huntington lets slip to interviewer Brett Taylor is that, on arriving in Dallas to shoot the 1968 film Hell Raiders, she first asked to be driven to Dealey Plaza to visit the site where President Kennedy was killed [1]. She also reveals that it was Howard W. Koch, producer of 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate, who “convinced Joan and her husband to move [from Florida] to Los Angeles, where he threw a party in her honor in order to introduce her to people in the movie business.” [2] Her agent in Hollywood, meanwhile, was Ron Leif, “who happened to be the son-in-law of MCA head Lew Wasserman” [3] – a “lifelong friend” [4] of mobster, Zionist arms procurer, and Permindex investor Moe Dalitz [5].

Joan Huntington on Branded

Equally interesting is the Merricks’ relationship with Greek man of mystery Nico Minardos, with whom Huntington worked on a two-part 1965 episode of the western series Branded. Minardos “became good friends with Joan and Laurence, who wound up flying to Greece more than once to visit him,” Taylor writes [6]. “I was an agent in Los Angeles and Nico was one of my clients – and we became friends immediately,” relates Arnold Soloway, Huntington’s second husband, in the documentary Finding Nico. This 2010 portrait, filmed shortly before the actor’s death, was made by Minardos’s godson, Owen Prell, who also interviews Minardos associate Dario Gabbai. “Nico was in the same boat with me when I was coming to the USA as an immigrant. We got very close,” reveals Gabbai, who was Minardos’s roommate at UCLA in 1951 and 1952. Gabbai, most infamous for his claims of having assisted in exterminations of Jews as a member of the “Sonderkommando” at Auschwitz, later joined the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJJDC), coordinating refugee resettlement. “In 1951, he immigrated to the United States through the sponsorship of the Jewish community of Cleveland, and two years later he departed for California,” notes his New York Times obituary [7].

Dario Gabbai’s Italian passport

Minardos’s friendships with the Merricks and with a member of the AJJDC are particularly interesting in view of suspicions behind the Iron Curtain that the organization served as a cover for intelligence activities. After the Second World War, Czech authorities denounced “the ‘Zionist-imperialist’ scheme to seize control of Czechoslovakia” – specifically naming the AJJDC – the charge being that, “in exchange for US support for Israel, ‘Zionist organizations’ would carry out espionage and economic sabotage within Czechoslovakia.” [8] Under Stalin, the Joint Distribution Committee was also named as a player in the alleged “Doctors’ Plot”, in which “nine prominent Soviet physicians, six of them Jewish, were arrested and accused of plotting to kill the country’s top military commanders and key leaders through false diagnoses and bad treatment.” [9]. Cleveland, the source of Gabbai’s US sponsorship, was a major point of entry for smuggling from Canada into the US, a prominent figure in this scene being none other than Moe Dalitz, “the organized crime czar of Cleveland and Las Vegas” [10]. Minardos, as Finding Nico reveals, was also friends with Nicholas “Nick the Greek” Dandolos, the famous mob-connected gambler, who was “shilling” and serving as a tourist attraction for the Las Vegas casino moguls, “pretending to gamble, using house money to draw a crowd after 1949,” writes Johnny Hughes [11].

Nico Minardos at the controls of a Cessna aircraft

There was also a period of the actor’s life, after offers of good parts in Hollywood had dried up, when he “was flying an airplane a lot […] so there were times when I was alone on the weekends,” remembers his ex-wife, who characterizes the flying as a “hobby”. What makes Minardos a truly intriguing figure, however, is his later work for Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. “Nico was involved in some of the oil dealings that Khashoggi was involved with,” Soloway explains in Finding Nico. “He ran the company out of Spain that Khashoggi had, Triad.” Though past his prime as an actor, “Nico had a good business mind, and that’s why Khashoggi took him on.” His work for the Saudi arms dealer, however, would ultimately destroy Minardos’s reputation when he and others fell prey to a 1986 Department of Justice sting operation that came to be dubbed the “Brokers of Death” case. “The ten defendants – an odd lot that includes an Israeli war hero, an actor who once appeared on Marcus Welby, MD, and the owner of the Barbarella hairstyling studios in England – were charged with five conspiracies to defraud the United States into approving the arms sales on the basis of false documents,” summarizes James Traub in a 1987 New York article on the affair:

From prison and through their lawyers, the group raised what appeared to be an outlandish defense: They had been told of a secret change in American policy toward Iran that would lead to covert government approval for their transaction. Several also claimed they were closely linked to the Israeli government. “The [Israeli] defense establishment knows about this group,” said General Avraham Bar’Am, the war hero.

Defendants in arms cases often raise such arguments, and in papers filed last fall in federal court in Manhattan, Assistant US Attorney Lorna G. Schofield accused Evans and his associates of “seek[ing] comfort in fantasy.”

In early November, the world learned that the fantasy – or something close to it – was true. The Reagan administration admitted working with the Israeli government to ship arms to Iran. As the details unfolded, it became clear that private arms traders had played a key role in arranging the transactions. And the principal middleman turned out to be Adnan Khashoggi – the Saudi plutocrat and arms dealer […] [12]

Minardos’s contacts included an “elusive pair” of Frenchmen, John Delaroque and Bernard Veillot, who were linked to Richard Brenneke [13], an Oregon businessman who testified to having worked for the CIA’s Air America operation in Southeast Asia [14]. “Since October 1985, Minardos had been in touch with two ambitious Israeli insurance salesmen, Israel Eisenberg and his son, Guri,” Traub continues:

From the time [Khashoggi counsel Samuel] Evans and Minardos met them, the Eisenbergs insisted that they were working openly with their government.” […]

On March 10 [1986], Evans and Minardos arrived in Jerusalem to complete negotiations with the Eisenbergs and to meet with Israeli officials. Upon arrival, they recalled, they were told that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, had checked their identities, and they were whisked through the airport. The Eisenbergs introduced them to the proprietors of a private company, Promil, that was licensed to deal directly with the military to arrange arms sales. [15]

In view of his previous associations with Dario Gabbai and Laurence Merrick, as well as his “hobby” as a pilot, it is tempting to speculate as to whether Minardos’s involvement with the world of international intrigue began with his work for Khashoggi or at some earlier point. Merrick and his wife did a great deal of traveling, including to Greece to visit Minardos, and I am prompted to wonder, too, if these vacations served strictly recreational purposes. “Twice a year, he [i.e., Merrick] booked passage on ‘Love Boat’ cruises down the Mexican ‘Gold Coast’ [of Mazatlan] or through the Caribbean,” notes Henry Radner in a 1984 article in Detective Dragnet on the director’s 1977 murder; and Radner also reports Huntington stating that “on a recent cruise to Mexico her husband had become involved in an altercation” that “had something to do with the acting school” [16]. Despite the Merrick Academy being “one of the best known acting schools in Hollywood” [17], a 1975 profile in New Times gives an unimpressive impression of the level of instruction being offered there. “At the Laurence Merrick Studios Academy of Dramatic Arts, many Vietnam veterans studying on the GI Bill attend the crowded commercials class,” writes Paul Boorstin, who also reveals that Merrick’s students “have seen the raunchy side of life”:

Matthias Uitz, their teacher, is a German actor who was thrown out of work when the market for Nazi villains in TV series declined. He has never appeared in a commercial himself, relying instead on “study and observation”. […] Matthias holds up a tube of Brylcreem. “What is this?” he asks. The students crane their necks. […] “What is this?” Matthias repeats again. “Hair grease!” a voice shouts from the back. The teacher shakes his head. “No, I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a phallic symbol.” The class is baffled. Matthias enunciates, “It’s a dick. I want you to hold your product like one. I don’t care if it’s a flashlight, a Coke bottle or a Paper Mate pen.” […]

Matthias demonstrates what he calls the Steve McQueen walk – buttocks clenched in, hips thrust out. The teacher is slight of build, bland, unimposing. “Steve McQueen wasn’t born with sex appeal. He learned it, and you can, too. From me.” [18]

Merrick’s killer as pictured in Detective Dragnet (June 1984)

Though the school appears to have enjoyed some success, its revenues may not have been sufficient to cover the cost of what Radner describes as the Manson director’s “palatial” home [19]. “The producer enjoyed his hard earned prestige and wealth,” writes Radner: “He lived in a Beverly Hills mansion, complete with pool and deluxe security system, owned a fleet of luxury cars, and dressed in custom tailored suits.” Merrick also “opened a general contracting business and dabbled successfully in real estate,” Radner reveals [20], offering further insight into the character of the school in recounting the investigation of Merrick’s murder:

The detectives poured over a list of persons who had worked for the slain producer or had attended the acting studio. One name that surfaced was that of a 28-year-old accountant who had been caught embezzling from the studio. Another was of a former New Jersey hoodlum, who had become a paid professional witness on organized crime.

The two were checked out. It was learned that the embezzler was considered a valuable employee despite his quick fingered propensities, and was still working at the studio. He had no reason to murder Merrick. Neither did the paid witness, who was in an acting class in the presence of other students when the shooting occurred. [21]

Radner’s most valuable revelation about Merrick’s school, however, is the detail that a former student “told detectives early in the investigation that she had been approached by one of Merrick’s pals with an offer to smuggle cocaine in from Mexico.” He continues: “‘He said he was going to front us $50,000 to buy the dope and bring it across,’ she said. ‘He told me the dope was for him and his buddies.’” Merrick’s student “said she turned down the deal,” Radner writes: “Her reluctance was apparently based on the fact that her husband had been arrested in Mazatlan, Mexico” – interestingly, the spot Merrick habitually visited on vacations – “for possession of marijuana and was serving a long prison term.” This former student at Merrick’s school, whom Radner declines to name, was Veronica Compton, who had been jailed after being “accused of planning a ‘copy cat’ murder in order to free one of the self confessed [Hillside] stranglers, Kenneth Bianchi.” “She says she doesn’t know who killed Merrick and doesn’t want to talk to anybody,” reported Sgt. Hank Petroski, tasked with following leads in the Merrick murder case in the years before Dennis Mignano’s confession [22].

Veronica Compton

A Federal Aviation Administration investigator, Rodney Stich, in his book America’s Corrupt War on Drugs, draws attention to the “investigation into drug trafficking […] conducted by a British law commission headed by Lord Louis Blom-Cooper, which then conducted a year of hearings” – highlighting among its findings the following: “The use of Antigua by the Mossad for drug trafficking and for training and arming the private armies of Columbia’s drug barons” and the “long-standing practice by US authorities to cover for the crimes of the Mossad group”. “Referring to the [1980s] drug-smuggling projects, Operation New Wave and Operation Backlash, [CIA operative Gunther] Russbacher said that the intent of the operations” was “to bring heroin into the United States from the Far East using freighters, cruise-line transports, and other international lines,” and Stich further notes that “intermediate points included […] Mazatlan” [23]. Was Merrick, in his cruises to Mazatlan and the Caribbean, just vacationing – or perhaps playing a role in some earlier phase of Israeli drug-smuggling activities?

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Endnotes

[1] Taylor, Brett. “Joan Huntington: From I Spy and The Man from UNCLE to Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched and Beyond!” Filmfax (January-March 2016), p. 52.

[2] Ibid., p. 50.

[3] Ibid., p. 51.

[4] Russo, Gus. Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America’s Hidden Power Brokers. New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2006, p. 202.

[5] Kalimtgis, Konstandinos, et al. Dope, Inc.: Britain’s Opium War against the US. New York, NY: Executive Intelligence Review, 1978, p. 354.

[6] Taylor, Brett. “Joan Huntington: From I Spy and The Man from UNCLE to Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched and Beyond!” Filmfax (January-March 2016), p. 50.

[7] Berger, Joseph. “Dario Gabbai, a Final Witness to Auschwitz, Is Dead at 97”. The New York Times (April 11, 2020): https://archive.ph/Mqx38

[8] Norwood, Stephen H. Antisemitism and the American Far Left. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 155.

[9] Klagsbrun, Francine. Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel. New York, NY: Schocken Books, 2017, p. 376.

[10] Kalimtgis, Konstandinos, et al. Dope, Inc.: Britain’s Opium War against the US. New York, NY: Executive Intelligence Review, 1978, p. 354.

[11] Hughes, Johnny. Famous Gamblers, Poker History, and Texas Stories. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012, p. 3.

[12] Traub, James. “The Katzenjammer Falcon”. New York (February 9, 1987), pp. 36-38.

[13] Ibid., pp. 39-40.

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_J._Brenneke

[15] Traub, James. “The Katzenjammer Falcon”. New York (February 9, 1987), p. 41.

[16] Radner, Henry. “Was Horror Movie King Killed by Black Magic?” Detective Dragnet (June 1984), pp. 24-25.

[17] Ibid., p. 24.

[18] Boorstin, Paul. “The 30-Second Star”. New Times (February 7, 1975), p. 55.

[19] Radner, Henry. “Was Horror Movie King Killed by Black Magic?” Detective Dragnet (June 1984), p. 25.

[20] Ibid., p. 24.

[21] Ibid., p. 39.

[22] Ibid., p. 40.

[23] Stich, Rodney. America’s Corrupt War on Drugs – and On the People. Alamo, CA: Silverpeak, 2013, pp. 51-52.

“Roman Polanski has lived a life full of darkness. […] But this director has consistently been able to turn his darkness into remarkable films,” observes Don Perlgut in his review of 1988’s Frantic for The Australian Jewish Times [1]. A box-office failure, Frantic is one of Polanski’s least appreciated works, but a “remarkable” one, nevertheless, in the sense that it warrants a few remarks. The thriller stars Harrison Ford as Richard Walker, an American surgeon whose doting wife, Sondra (Betty Buckley), has accompanied him to Paris for a professional conference. Shortly after they arrive, Sondra goes missing, sending Dr. Walker on an anguished quest through seedy Parisian streets to track down the kidnappers. Sondra, as it turns out, picked up the wrong luggage at the airport, instead taking a suitcase belonging to party girl and occasional smuggler Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner). The contents of Michelle’s suitcase are of life-and-death importance to the contingent of Arab operatives who commissioned her services as a mule, and a pair of Mossad agents – “probably on our side,” as an American character assesses them – also takes an urgent interest in the MacGuffin, with US authorities bumbling behind.  

Many reviewers of Frantic mention the influence of Hitchcock, but Roger Ebert correctly asserts in his three-star review that the movie is no mere pastiche: “Every scene of this film feels like a project from Polanski’s heart – a film to prove he is still capable of generating the kind of suspense he became famous for.” [2] “Polanski has often spoken of making films as disguised autobiographies,” writes Nicholas Blincoe in The Guardian [3] – and I will argue that Frantic especially exhibits this self-revelatory quality, albeit in a dishonest manner. Indeed, the meaning of the film is inextricable from its mixed-up cargo of biographical baggage. “Walker is also a survivor, not unlike Polanski himself,” suggests Perlgut, soliciting sympathy for the director in his review by referencing the ordeal of Polanski’s childhood as well as his wife’s death at the hands of the Manson Family [4]. Like Polanski, Walker is a foreigner and finds local authorities less than completely sympathetic. The star, according to Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis, authors of The Films of Harrison Ford, “was impressed with Polanski’s enthusiasm, as well as the fact that the story had a special meaning to the director.” Ford agreed to appear in the film following the auteur’s “one-man performance” of the thriller. “It was clear that this was deeply emotional for Roman,” Ford relates. “The plot centers on a man who finds himself unable to protect his wife when she mysteriously vanishes,” note Pfeiffer and Lewis, who find in this an instance of how “Polanski has always been haunted by his own wife Sharon Tate’s gruesome death at the hands of the Charles Manson cult in 1969.” [5]

Frantic: “Wino” guides Walker

Echoing the sixties, too, is the witness to Sondra’s abduction played by odd-looking French character actor Dominique Pinon. Identified only as “Wino” in the cast listing, the shaggy, down-and-out lowlife wears a decorative denim jacket and headband that give him the look of washed-up, hairy flotsam of the Age of Aquarius – in other words, a person who might not have been too out-of-place at the Spahn Ranch. When Walker informs a Rastafarian cocaine dealer (Thomas M. Pollard) that he lives in San Francisco, the dealer enthusiastically launches into a rendition of Scott McKenzie’s 1967 hit “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” – a song written by Family-connected Mamas and the Papas singer John Phillips [6], suspected by some, including Polanski, of involvement in his wife’s murder [7]. Interesting, too, is that Walker and his wife have returned to Paris after twenty years, having first visited the city together for their honeymoon in June of 1968 – the month of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. While visiting a nightclub, Walker is addressed by an Arab, Dr. Metlaoui (Raouf Ben Amor), who recognizes him as an acquaintance from a cardiologists’ convention: “We were all waiting the election day,” Metlaoui reminds him – cryptically evoking RFK’s assassination, allegedly by Sirhan Sirhan, in the lead-up to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The Tate-LaBianca massacre, as I explain in “The Merrick Connection Revisited”, plausibly constituted a component of the cover-up of the RFK assassination, itself an aftershock of the murder of JFK and Israel’s nuclear ascendancy [8]. Frantic’s Michelle – who, coincidentally or not, shares her name with Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, with whom Polanski had an affair not long before his wife’s murder [9] – has been hired as a mule by drug dealer Dédé Martin (Boll Boyer), who in turn is employed by the cell of Arab terrorists. Walker knows nothing of Martin’s work for the Arabs, however, so that the pusher’s death – like that of purportedly drug-peddling Jay Sebring before him [10] – might appear initially to be narcotics-related. In addition, Michelle sports an “I [Heart] SF” button on her hat when she discovers Martin’s body, again echoing the California countercultural scene of the sixties. “If they knew me, they would kill me,” Michelle says of the killers who were her indirect employers.  

Frantic would have benefitted from the coldhearted cutting of some scenes and the trimming of others (such as a dance sequence in a nightclub that continues until it is inexplicable),” Ebert permits himself to gripe: “But perhaps Polanski was so happy to be back where he belonged, making a big-budget thriller with a big star, that he lost his objectivity.” [11] The strange intensity of the dance in the club, however – occurring just after the politically resonant encounter with the deceptively irrelevant Dr. Metlaoui – indicates that it is crucial. Emmanuelle Seigner bears no strong resemblance to Sharon Tate, but the insistence with which Grace Jones’s “I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango)” recurs on Frantic’s soundtrack in scenes involving Michelle, including the hypnotic dance sequence Ebert so dislikes, causes one to wonder if the actress or her character are perhaps intended to conjure the missing woman whose absence haunts the story: not Sondra the kidnapped spouse or Michelle Phillips, but the director’s own butchered wife. Seigner’s Michelle, like Tate, evinces a ditzy sex appeal and a sort of innocent sleaze – and Seigner and Polanski would wed the year after Frantic’s release, inviting further comparison and probing of biographical interpenetration with the movie’s meaning. Both Michelle and Sondra arguably embody aspects of Sharon Tate’s significance, serving as avatars – Sondra/Tate through her painful absence from Walker/Polanski’s life for most of the film’s duration, and Michelle/Tate as the tarnished ingenue whose ultimate sacrifice serves a Zionist geopolitical end when she is shot by one of the Arabs seeking a kryton, a nuclear triggering device, that is in Michelle’s possession.

Seigner, Tate, Polanski

Polanski, in disposing of Walker’s young companion in this way, acknowledges the relevance of Middle-Eastern geopolitical intrigue and, indirectly, nuclear espionage to the assassination of Sharon Tate, but, in effect, points the finger at boogeyman Sirhan Sirhan rather than at his own probable intelligence entanglements. (Film critic Srikanth Srinivasan relates, based on “a not-so-reliable source”, that Polanski was forced to dispense with an original ending in which Walker’s wife “Sondra turns out to be a double agent herself” [12], which – if true, and if the Sondra/Tate parallel is valid – arguably justifies the Tate-LaBianca murders.) Walker, rather than handing the stolen kryton over to the Americans or the Israelis, instead asserts himself as a wronged and outraged individual and disposes of the device by throwing it into the Seine, refusing to recognize US or Israeli national security imperatives; but, if Walker is the director’s stand-in, this is likely too exonerating a self-portrait. Polanski’s Frantic was “inspired by a sensitive matter involving his close friend” the Israeli spy Arnon Milchan, reveal Milchan’s biographers Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman. “The 1988 film portrays, in graphic terms, the extreme measures taken for a single kryton. In real life, Milchan had already obtained [i.e., smuggled] hundreds of them,” they explain: “Indeed, Polanski would never have known about the importance – or even the existence – of krytons without his friend Arnon.” [13] “Polanski, who as a youth saw ‘German propaganda newsreels’, knows the telling effects of propaganda,” objects Reel Bad Arabs author Jack G. Shaheen: “So, why does he project Frantic’s Arabs as he does? In 1988, Israel was the only country in the Mideast known to have nuclear weapons.” Moreover: “As of this writing, Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. […] Given these facts, why didn’t Polanski reverse the roles of protagonists and antagonists, and present Israelis as nuclear smugglers?” [14] Indeed, why not depict them as Michelle’s assassins?

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Endnotes

[1] Perlgut, Don. “Sombre Parisian Thriller Setting”. The Australian Jewish Times (July 22, 1988), p. 27.

[2] Ebert, Roger. “Frantic”. Chicago Sun-Times (February 26, 1988): https://archive.ph/31Vnb

[3] Blincoe, Nicholas. “Roman Polanski and the Man Who Invented Masochism”. The Guardian (May 23, 2014): https://archive.ph/gM5HN

[4] Perlgut, Don. “Sombre Parisian Thriller Setting”. The Australian Jewish Times (July 22, 1988), p. 27.

[5] Pfeiffer, Lee; and Michael Lewis. The Films of Harrison Ford. New York, NY: Citadel Press, 2002, p. 162.

[6] Jolly, Nathan. “Charles Manson and Mamas and the Papas: Manson and the Musical World, Part Three”. The Brag (November 21, 2017): https://archive.ph/vvOb2

[7] Sederstrom, Jill. “Who Did Roman Polanski First Suspect Murdered His Wife Sharon Tate?” Oxygen (August 25, 2020): https://archive.ph/Y1TVZ

[8] K., Rainer Chlodwig von. “The Merrick Connection Revisited”. Esoteric Brezhnevism (May 16, 2022): https://rainercvk.blogspot.com/2022/05/the-merrick-connection-revisited.html

[9] Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1998, p. 78.

[10] Geiger, Dorian. “Manson Family Victim’s Friend Doesn’t Believe in ‘Helter Skelter’, Has Different Theory for Motive”. Oxygen (August 1, 2019): https://archive.ph/n6XAY

[11] Ebert, Roger. “Frantic”. Chicago Sun-Times (February 26, 1988): https://archive.ph/31Vnb

[12] Srinivasan, Srikanth. “Flashback #76”. The Seventh Art (May 1, 2010): https://theseventhart.info/2010/05/01/flashback-76/

[13] Doron, Meir; and Joseph Gelman. Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan. Lynbrook, NY: Gefen Books, 2011, pp. 144-145.

[14] Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2009, p. 233.

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