Wednesday, January 26, 2022


It was the afternoon of May 14, 1947, that six of the nation’s top children’s programs were hit with a boycott instituted by the Lafayette District, P.T.A., in San Francisco. Membership of 318 pledged itself to tune out programs such as Tennessee Jed, Hop Harrigan, Sky King, Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid. This was among the earliest (if not first) recorded action taken by a parent group to curtail the activities of network or local programs which, they claimed, was teaching “nothing but death and violence.” Their efforts were short-lived, however, as The Cisco Kid (along with his contemporaries) continued to ride the airwaves from coast-to-coast. If anything, The Cisco Kid was due for vast expansion courtesy of Frederic W. Ziv and his transcription empire.

            The history of radio’s Cisco Kid program began on the evening of October 2, 1942, when Mutual premiered a weekly primetime rendition of the motion picture caballero. Under the direction of Alvin Flanagan, the hero romanced women as suave a reputation as Cesar Romero established on the big screen. Sponsorship entitlement of time slots would result in The Cisco Kid program bouncing back and forth at various time slots in two-month increments, Friday and Tuesday evenings, settling for an eight-month position on Saturday evening through 1944. Executives at Mutual believed the program had potential to gain a sponsor, as a result of the on-going motion pictures that were being produced in Hollywood. 

Frederic W. Ziv and John Sinn, having purchased the radio rights, licensed the series for broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System. The program originated out of New York City with Jackson Beck in the title role. In July of 1943, days after the radio program went off the air for a few months (it would return in October 1943), Ziv and Sinn sat down with Phil Krasne and James Burkett, producer of the Cisco Kid movies at Monogram Studios, to work out and coordinate a plan whereby both the weekly radio program and the motion pictures cross-promote each other. By November screen tests were being made to find an actor who could play the role both on radio and in the movies concurrently. (It would take a few years for that to happen, but we cannot blame them for trying in 1943.)

The weekly prime-time program concluded on the evening of February 24, 1945. While it looked as if the series would not return to radio, Ziv never gave up hope. One year later, a major shake-up at Mutual created a vacancy. George W. Trendle sold his Michigan Radio Network to ABC and the network gained an exclusive: The Lone Ranger. Up until then The Lone Ranger program aired over the Don Lee Network three days a week. The shift to ABC meant The Lone Ranger would no longer air over KHJ in Los Angeles. Frederic W. Ziv agreed to license The Cisco Kid as a substitute for The Lone Ranger, which would air three-times-a-week. Children in Los Angeles who wanted to hear The Lone Ranger simply had to change to KECA and listen to their program at 6 p.m., while The Cisco Kid aired over KHJ at 6:30 p.m.

Jack Mather (left) and Harry Lang (right)

For the new three-times-a-week rendition, which premiered on Monday, February 25, 1946, Jack Mather and Harry Lang were hired to play the leads. The program was tamed to fit a format best suited for children. Romance between The Cisco Kid and the damsel in distress was tamed down; Pancho became more of a comedic sidekick. Intercontinental Bakeries, makers of Weber Bread, sponsored the new rendition. While the program aired three times more frequent than the prior Mutual rendition, The Cisco Kid aired regionally (not nationally) over KHJ in Los Angeles, while The Lone Ranger continued to air nationwide from coast-to-coast over ABC.

Beginning with the broadcast of Monday, January 10, 1949, Paul Pierce was hired to direct the program and ZIV funded the recording of each and every broadcast that followed. ZIV had intentions of syndicating the series via transcription disc. Initially the broadcasts were recorded as they aired live, with the Weber Bread commercials deleted out afterwards. For syndication purposes, the programs needed to run a span of 25 minutes for syndication, allowing for local announcers to deliver the sponsor’s message. Within a few weeks, by March, it was decided that the assignment would be easier if the radio adventures were recorded in advance without the commercials. For the KHJ broadcasts, Weber commercials would be delivered live just as the syndicated renditions across the country.

For a brief summary of the above: The Cisco Kid was broadcast as a weekly program from October 2, 1942, to February 14, 1945. Beginning February 25, 1946, The Cisco Kid aired three days a week over KHJ in Los Angeles. Two years later the radio broadcasts were recorded for syndication. 

Two radio broadcasts pre-syndication era, “The Cisco Kid Meets His Sister” (December 11, 1942) and “A Ghost for the Cisco Kid” (May 13, 1944) exist in recorded form. The remainder of the recordings that circulate today in collector hands (over 300 at present count) are from the Frederic W. Ziv syndication. For the record, all 792 of the ZIV syndications exist in recorded form even though more than half are not circulating yet. For collectors of old-time radio programs, any recording of The Cisco Kid radio program pre-dating January 1949 should be considered rare and a true find.

Recently, most of The Cisco Kid radio scripts have been digitized and careful review of those digitized led to a number of discoveries. 

The first discovery (and not much of a surprise) is the fact that collectors have been assigning a broadcast date for the syndicated episodes. Syndication meant the series aired at various days and time slots across the country, in regional areas each with different sponsors, which makes assigning a broadcast date futile. However, The Cisco Kid can be one of the exceptions since the radio scripts do feature a “Recording Date” and since those episodes were first heard over KHJ in Los Angeles before they aired across the country through syndication, if any airdates should be assigned, the KHJ broadcasts make more sense. (Many of the radio scripts also include the KHJ broadcast date on top of the recording date.) Thus syndication disc #1 would be dated January 10, 1949, #2 would be dated January 12, #3 would be dated January 14, #4 would be dated January 17, 1949, and so on.

Every broadcast included an official episode number and a script title. Back in the 1980s and 1990s it was common for collectors to create “collector titles,” adding confusion to collectors who discovered they had duplicate recordings with alternate titles. 

But perhaps the biggest find was the cast, documented on the cover of each and every radio script. Actors who were well-established on radio played multiple roles on the program including Parley Baer, Tom Holland, Jane Webb, Virginia Gregg, Lillian Buyeff, Parley Baer, Herb Butterfield, John Dehner, Ge Ge Pearson, Peggy Webber, Tim Graham, Ralph Moody, Alan Reed, Rye Billsbury, Vic Perrin, Ralph Moody, Charlie Lung, Jay Novello, Joan Banks, Byron Kane, Lou Krugman, Howard McNear, Jack Petruzzi, Jeanne Bates, Peggy Webber, Herb Ellis, Marvin Miller, and Barney Phillips.

Because the announcer never delivered acknowledgement of the supporting cast at the close of the programs, the extant radio scripts provides us with a number of surprises. Silent screen star Francis X. Bushman, who went off to Chicago in the early thirties to try his hand at a radio career, returned to Hollywood during the 1940s and his name appeared on no less than 49 episodes of The Cisco Kid. Silent screen actress Ynez Seabury, whose career was under the direction of D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, played the role of Annie in “Arms for the Cisco Kid” (episode #48) and as Betty and Ma Grimstead in “An Execution for the Cisco Kid” (episode #52). Silent screen actress Betty Blythe, best remembered today for her exotic roles in such films as The Queen of Sheba (1921) and her starring portrayal of H. Rider Haggard’s She (1925), appeared in four episodes of The Cisco Kid, listed below:

(as Maude) “Murder at Massacre Junction” #401

(as Sadie) “The Lady of Six-Gun CafĂ©” #425

(as the Duchess) “The Duchess of San Antonio” #451

(as Cora) “War Drums” #562


Radio actress June Foray, best known for supplying voices for cartoon characters including Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Cindy Lou Who, played supporting roles in four episodes:

(as Amelia) “A Cape for the Cisco Kid” #11

            (as Frances) “Four Aces for the Cisco Kid” #45

            (as Betsy) “Senorita Pancho and the Cisco Kid” #63

            (as Hazel) “Slaves for the Cisco Kid” #103


An obscure comedian/character actor named Billy "Buddy" Grey (sometimes spelled Gray) who worked on radio in the 1940s and began in San Francisco as a sidekick to comic Jack Kirkwood, played supporting roles on seven episodes:

 (as Reardon) “A War for the Cisco Kid” #14

            (as Yancey) “Handcuffs for the Cisco Kid” #29

            (as Boots and Ed) “A Tax for the Cisco Kid” #30

            (as Porky) “An Ambush for the Cisco Kid” #38

            (as Sheriff Grimstead) “An Execution for the Cisco Kid” #52

            (as Frank) “A Lion for the Cisco Kid” #50

            (as Coker) “A Dead End for the Cisco Kid” #55


Actor Jeff Chandler appeared in two episodes, under the name of Ira Grossel (his birth name). Chandler did a lot of radio in the 1940s, including playing the title role of Michael Shayne. After signing a lucrative contract with 20th Century Fox, Chandler was granted permission to continue doing radio as long as he was billed “Ira Grossel” instead of “Jeff Chandler,” except when the movie studios wanted to highlight one of his up-coming movie appearances. In a 1951 interview with Hedda Hopper, Chandler remarked how he enjoyed performing for radio more than movies, citing radio actors “have to make their roles come alive, and they only have their voices with which to do it, but in pictures, the technique is quite different. The actor is only a small part of the performance. He lends his intelligence and personality to the role, but the greatest part of the performance belongs to the producer, who puts him in a certain type of part; the director, who tells him how to play it; and the cutter, who edits what’s done. That’s why I find being a movie actor not particularly gratifying.” While his name was not credited on the air, his name is listed as “Ira Grossel” on the cover of two scripts: as Bill in “A Rescue for the Cisco Kid” (#43) and as Jim in “An Arrest for the Cisco Kid” (#66).

Names also discovered among the cast of The Cisco Kid radio programs was actor Pinky Parker, who appeared in a dozen episodes, and actress Louise Arthur. Stephen Chase, the actor best known for playing a doctor in When Worlds Collide (1951) and the iconic scene in The Blob (1958), played supporting roles in 13 episodes. Of those 13, the following presently exist in collector hands: “Return of the Laughing Bandit” (#178), “The Bull-Whacker” (#222), “Murder at Red Clay Bend” (#276), “Gold in the Conestoga” (#288) and “The Mystery of Nine Mile Mesa” (#291).

Don Harvey, who would later play the recurring character of Collins on television’s Rawhide, can be heard in episode #320, “Killer’s Bullets at Chicken Creek.” Mark Lawrence, best known for playing tough guys in B-mysteries and film noir on the big screen, played a role in episode #70, “Gun for Hire.” Elizabeth Harrower, known for playing the recurring role of Miss Perkins, the schoolteacher, on television’s Dennis the Menace, played the female lead in the same episode (“Gun for Hire”) and in episode #115 titled “Stampede.” Frank Lovejoy, before building up star status on radio for such programs as Night Beat on NBC radio (1950-1952), and guest star billing on such programs as Suspense, appears in two episodes of The Cisco Kid: “The Prophet of Boot Hill” (#101) and “Trail of the Iron Horse” (#140). Roscoe Ates, best known as Soapy Jones, the sidekick to cowboy star Eddie Dean in a series of silver screen Westerns from 1946 to 1948, plays supporting roles in two episodes of The Cisco Kid: “His Honor, the Killer” (#126) and “The Lady Sheriff of Sandy Gulch” (#165).

Actress Julie Bennett, who played supporting roles on thousands of radio broadcasts and later made a living providing voices for animated cartoons (including Cindy Bear on The New Yogi Bear Show), appeared in half a dozen episodes. She played the recurring character of “Julie” in the following three episodes: “Stage to Silver City” (#602), “Laramie Land Grab” (#624) and “Outlaw Justice” (#636). Radio announcer Art Gilmore, later to be narrator on television’s Highway Patrol and Mackenzie’s Raiders, played supporting roles on almost a dozen episodes including: “The Fighting Mountain Man” (#540), “The Trouble Makers” (#549), and “The Hurricane” (#559).

Actor Richard Boone, who would later become a household name as Paladin on television’s Have Gun-Will Travel, also acted on radio. He can be heard on such broadcasts as DragnetSuspenseEscape and Dangerous Assignment. In The Cisco Kid episode titled “The Vanished Ones” #588, he played the role of Heinrich. Bill Johnstone, radio actor best known as Lamont Cranston, alias “The Shadow” on radio during the early 1940s, appeared in two episodes: as Otto in “The Corpse Maker” (#661), and as Turk in “House of Gold” (#696).

Curley Bradley, best known for playing the role of Tom Mix on the long-running radio program, played supporting roles in nine episodes of The Cisco Kid.

(as the sheriff) “Mule Team Murder” #457

(as Harley) “Judge Colt’s Law” #490

(as Coke) “Gamblers! Gunmen! And Gold!” #506

(as Mike) “Murder at Fort Mojave” #514

(as Sid) “The Mystery of Desolation Canyon” #542

(as Bob) “Law of the Panhandle” #556

(as Boone) “The Lady From Lubbock” #574

(as Charley) “Cashiel Raynor’s Revenge” #598

(as Randy Wolfe) “Killer in the Jail House” #637


Willard Waterman, best known for the role of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve on The Great Gildersleeveon both radio and television, played supporting roles in ten episodes. Six of those ten exist in collector hands in case anyone wants to listen to them: “The Buffalo Skinner” (#131), “The Gila Stallion” (#146), “Cisco Takes the Trail” (#162), “Avalanche in Arrow Pass” (#177), “The Hermit of Ghost Town Three” (#186), and “Stampede on the Chisolm Trail” (#241).

            Perhaps the biggest question that remained unanswered (until now) was which episodes specifically did Mel Blanc play the role of Poncho on The Cisco Kid. Until now encyclopedias and magazine articles only listed his name but never the specifics. According to the radio scripts, Mel Blanc played the role from episodes #582 to 591, and again from #630 to 781. Lou Merrill played the role from #600 to 602. Dick Beals played the role of Panchito from #626 to #630, the last of which he shared an adventure with Poncho, who made a return to the program.

Actress Mala Powers

Perhaps the biggest surprise was to discover Mala Powers listed among the cast. The actress who appeared in dozens of Westerns and science-fiction movies in the 1950s and became a cultural icon over the years, played hundreds of supporting roles on radio including This is Your FBIThe Lux Radio TheatreJeff Regan, InvestigatorStars Over Hollywood and The Adventures of Red Ryder. The majority of her radio credits remain unknown due to a lack of proper documentation. Thanks to the preservation of The Cisco Kid radio scripts, her credits as they appear on The Cisco Kid are now fully documented and listed below.


(as Sarah) “Beyond the Frontier” #336

(as Martha) “A Lesson for Billy Jewell” #346

(as Dolly) “To Please a Friend” #358

(as Cleo) “Death by Telegraph” #380

(as Ruth) “Checkerboard of Death” #386

(as Vi) “The Wagon Box War” #404

(as Nora) “The Handsome Bandit” #419

(as Nancy) “The Land Rush” #426

(as Martha) “The Race for Life” #436

(as Lorrie) “The Birthday Party” #444

(as Molly) “Pancho and the Forty Thieves” #459

(as Betty) “Barbed Wire War” #474

(as Ann) “The Courtship of Joe Martin” #515

(as Cassandra) “South of Del Norte” #523

(as Clara) “Pancho and the Princess” #548

(as Betty) “Rodeo” #541

(as Marion) “Convict’s Escape” #557

(as Lola) “Murder at North San Juan” #583

(as Phyllis) “Fight at Devil’s Canyon” #597

(as Agatha Mason) “War in the Pecos Valley” #621

(as Gayle) “Mark of the Eagle” #628

(as Nora Knowles) “Killer in the Jail House” #637

(as Mary) “Blackmail at Roundup” #650

(as Carol) “Treasure of the Aztecs” #664

(as Mary) “Lynch Law” #708

(as Lorna) “The Gunmaker of Texas” #701

(as Lorry, the young girl) “The Gunhawk” #720

(as Nancy) “The Trap” #726

(as Lulu) “Sheriff Longhair” #743

(as Vinnie) “Vengeance of Vinnie Bolton” #758

(as Judy) “Gamble for Life” #768

(as Donna) “The Daughters of Cimarron” #776


            When it comes to cast documentation for radio’s The Cisco Kid, and the digitizing of the radio scripts, we should value such discoveries and efforts as it provides a record more accurate than what has been documented elsewhere on the Internet. There are a number of old-time radio fans who listen to recordings and make general assumptions who is in the cast, then contribute their assumptions to websites. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Regrettably, this accounts for hundreds of other radio programs, not just The Cisco Kid, listed on the Internet with incorrect cast details. All of which is a long-winded way of stating that the information contained in this article was taken directly from the radio scripts – no guesswork applied. Personally, I always prefer to go to the source… at least, document from the source.

On a positive note, The Cisco Kid is just one of many radio programs in the past year that received some form of preservation and documentation thanks to historians consulting archival materials. Ten years ago, there were a dozen people who would go to the expense traveling to archives, in an effort to properly document old-time radio. Sadly, as of today, that number has dwindled down to two. With so many old-time radio programs that have yet to receive proper documentation, fans of The Cisco Kid can rejoice for extensive treatment about this program (beyond these cast discoveries) will be published in a book in the next year or two, along with other programs produced by Frederic W. Ziv.

P.S. His name is spelled Frederic without a "K." Verification comes in multiple forms (two reprinted below) so, yes, IMDB and Wikipedia has it incorrect. 


Friday, January 21, 2022

Children's Records: A Hidden Gem

There has been a great deal of talk about vinyl records making a comeback. Last week my wife and I wandered through Crate and Barrel to discover they were selling a fancy record player and the latest albums of today on vinyl format. There are a large number of vinyl record album trade shows where vendors display varied price tags with their wares, based upon condition and edition. To the mainstream public who can download all of The Beatles songs from Apple iTunes, the question of why people would even bother to collect LP records stems from a misconception that everything is already available on digital format. To a generation that grew up with pops and clicks in the soundtrack, this brings back memories that hi-fidelity and 5.1 surround sound cannot provide. But I digress: there are loads of children's albums that have never been available commercially since their initial release. And for fans of old-time radio, such as myself, these records are unexplored and overlooked... and provide thousands of hours of enjoyment.

A little over a month ago I purchased an all-in-one LP-to-CD standalone (which also converts audio cassettes to CD) with relative ease. A few tweaks are permitted with the controls and after a few minutes of reading the instructions, and trial and error, I found myself converting a dozen LP records a day. The coming decade will define the digital age. With reluctance I eventually talked myself into going digital -- but with high standards of quality and assurance. Will I be able to liquidate and clear out a closet full of hundreds of children's records? Yes. Will I still be able to retain the recordings themselves to listen to any time I want? Yes. 

The transfer process has to be done at real time. If it takes 40 minutes to listen to play both sides of the vinyl, it takes 40 minutes to convert to CD. There are no speedy shortcuts. Considering the fact that I have not listened to a vinyl album for more than a decade, I was shocked to discover how much I enjoyed a little over half of the albums I was transferring. And an even bigger surprise was the discovery that many actors who made a living in radio made the transition to recording studio. Ralph Bell, Dan Ocko, Ronald Liss, Daws Butler, Jackson Beck, Paul Frees, June Foray and many others were supplying voices for dramatic readings and audio dramas. (The terms "radio drama" and "audio drama" are often used interchangeably but unless the recording was designed specifically for radio, not a vinyl album, they are considered an audio drama.)

From Batman, Superman, Star Trek, Hopalong Cassidy, Dick Tracy, Alfred Hitchcock, The Great Gildersleeve, The Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of the Apes, and many others made the decision to commercialize on the vinyl market. Most of these dramas were scripted for commercial use, not soundtracks excised from television or radio broadcasts. One of the most enjoyable (to my surprise) was Yogi Bear and the Three Stooges (1966). Daws Butler, who voiced Yogi Bear for the cartoons, reprises his role for this album... as well as Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curley Joe. You can listen to the album (including the introductory Yogi Bear song) here on YouTube.

Many of the Batman albums were enjoyable and the stories were adapted from the actual comic books. I recognized Casey Kasem reprising his role as Robin, the Boy Wonder, for at least one of these albums. It was bizarre to listen to Star Trek dramas with James Doohan reprising his role as Scotty with a cast that was by no means comparison to Leonard Nimoy or DeForest Kelley... but the actor playing Captain Kirk did a superb impersonation of William Shatner. Listening to Basil Rathbone, assisted with Ian Martin and Peter Fernandez, in a dramatic version of The Lost World was better than I expected when you consider the fact that the adaptation was lifted from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel, but with plenty of variations to ensure I was listening to something new. 

For those who cannot get enough of The Witch's Tales, a 1930s late-night horror radio program, I recommend Terror Tales by the Old Sea Hag. Produced in 1959 and featuring Martha Wentworth as an old witch who narrates six creepy stories ("Mice from Outer Space," "The Devil Octopus," "The Spooky Where" and "Terror Train" to name a few) was very entertaining. Not the same as listening to Old Nancy from The Witch's Tales, but a close second worth seeking out.

For those who cannot get enough Interplanetary adventure, Space PatrolRocky Jones and Captain Video features the original television and radio cast reprising their roles for new adventures. Walt Disney produced Davy Crockett with Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen; Guy Williams reprised his role for Zorro. If you love King Kong, you might want to seek out the 1974 Wonderland Record, adapted from the 1933 RKO motion picture. Adapted for recording by Cherney Berg, the complete story was dramatized with more emphasis on Kong's rampage through New York City, through the eyes and ears of the pilots and witnesses on the street. If you enjoy the Yukon adventures of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, you might want to seek out the 1952 Decca Records. Scripted by Fran Striker, who I would like to point out did not create the Preston series, the origin of Preston in "The Case That Made Preston a Sergeant" and the origin of King, the wonder dog in "The Case of the Orphan Dog," are essential listening.

Virtually thousands of children's records were produced from the 1950s through the 1980s, and I would imagine by this time most of them have been transferred to digital and are available online either through YouTube and various websites on the Internet. The quality of the productions vary; one of the Superman albums had terrible production values while other Superman albums were entertaining. 

Often overlooked by aficionados of old-time radio programs, today's technology of iPads and iPhones provide you with the tool to "click and listen" to many of these vinyl albums. Long commute to work every day? Explore a number of these albums. 

Friday, January 14, 2022


They say a house without books is like a room without windows. Truth in humor applied, the biggest advantage of reading books, both fiction and non-fiction, is the opportunity to get into the mind of another person. Whenever I visit someone’s house, I tend to take a quick moment and review the books on their shelf. After all, you can tell a lot about someone by the books on their shelves. With an eclectic list of genres that I enjoy, my bookshelves can only provide a glimpse into my interests.

During this past calendar year I read a total of 37 books, which was below my par which came to one-per-week. Still, the following three were among my favorites and I wanted to take a quick moment to recommend them… if the subject matter is your cup of tea.


Nevil Shut’s On the Beach (1957) dramatized a dismal portrayal of human behavior when they realize that life is about to end. After a nuclear World War III destroyed most of the globe, the few remaining survivors in southern Australia await the radioactive cloud that is heading their way and bringing certain death to everyone in its path. Among them is an American submarine captain struggling to resist the knowledge that his wife and children in the United States must be dead. Then a faint Morse code signal is picked up, transmitting from somewhere near Seattle, and Captain Towers must lead his submarine crew on a bleak tour of the ruined world in a desperate search for signs of life. The citizens of Melbourne, Australia, a mixed group, provides the basis of character study from all walks of life. Each person deals with impending death differently from the others.

The second book was Pat Frank’s Forbidden Area (1956). His later book, Alas, Babylon, was a magnificent read so I was intrigued enough to want to read another of his. At this point I will make it a tradition to read one of his novels every year.


Here we are introduced to a group of strategic B-99 bombers in flight – our main weapon against the country’s enemies. We then learn about Stanley Smith, a spy for the Soviets, who is sent to America on a secret mission. Then we are introduced to “The Intentions of the Enemy Group,” a military think tank in the Pentagon. The job of this secret, small task force is to theorize and prevent any possible attacks from a foreign power and they are only answerable to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (“Forbidden Area” refers to the office in the Pentagon where the group meets.)


The group is confronted with a mysterious problem which has downed a number of B-99 planes every time they reach a certain altitude. Every plan is taken apart and reviewed and reassembled and still the planes explode when they reach that noted height. With no hard evidence as to what is downing the planes, there is a risk that the country’s main strategic weapon may need to be grounded until someone discovers why they are crashing. A new member of the group, Colonel Jesse Price, believes that the plane crashes may be due to sabotage.  Price is a flyer whose loss of an eye during the Korean War has grounded him. Too valuable to be released, he is made the Air Force representative to The Intentions of the Enemy Group, a top-secret high-level organization which is trying to keep a step ahead of enemy thinking.


He theorizes that grounding the planes may be exactly what the Soviets want. When we see that Stanley Smith is on Hibiscus Air Base, the source of the downed planes, the audience is given an insight into just how much Jesse Price’s suspicions may be correct. With Christmas Eve only a few days away, Price believes an attack on the United States is imminent. If the planes are grounded, the Soviets will be able to invade a defenseless America. The question is, will Price and the Intentions of the Enemy Group be able to discover the enemy agent, reveal his means of destroying our aircraft, and prevent the attack against us in time?


The method by which the acts of sabotage is created is clever. It is also history revisited time and time again. An act of terrorism so simplistic, in an era where we consider ourselves so invincible, that we failed to underestimate the enemy.


The other book to reach my top three list is The Rack (1958), is an award-winning novel by A.E. Ellis, which told of a young Englishman named Paul Davenant, suffering from tuberculosis in the days before effective antibiotic treatment, who arrives at a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps with high hopes of a full cure and a normal life. But as the weeks and months pass interminably by, Davenant undergoes endless tests and medical procedures, each more horrific and dehumanizing than the last. Despite the pain, indignity, and tediousness, Davenant never loses sight of the outrageous, farcical side to his situation, the absurdity of it all. When he falls in love with a fellow patient, he becomes determined to recover his health, but will he succeed, or will all the tortures he has endured have been for nothing? 


All three are recommended reading if you want something to enjoy over a cup of hot tea by the fireplace during these cold winter months.

Thursday, January 6, 2022


I had high hopes for this one. THE MATRIX is on my top ten list of best science-fiction films of all time. The second and third film, for what they are, were not bad. But this fourth entry, released two decades later (and with a story that takes place 60 years following the events of the third film) is justifiably on the fence with viewers -- myself included.

The first act of the movie was a rehash of the original movie, along with a lengthy introduction that seemed to drag with a mystery but no clues. Confusing the viewer should be taboo -- intriguing them with clues is much more fun. There was nothing in this installment that made me ask, "What on earth is going on?" I somehow got the impression that the producers and script writers had an idea for a great second half but were stuck with a terrible first half. They knew where they wanted to go but not how to get there. And maybe they had other options for the first half of the movie and eventually settled on recycling much of the story again as their best option.

To be fair, the second half of the movie was much better and almost like the live action Dumbo, night and day. But the flaw with this fourth entry is not elevating the story and instead rehashing what we already know about the red pill versus the blue pill, and other trademarks. It is not until the second half of the movie that we are introduced to computer "upgrades" and while that adds to the fun, even the computer effects are outdated in what becomes a cartoon with little to no emotion. The scenes involving people being unplugged from the cyber world was nightmarish in the first film but this entry features animated CGI with little to no menace. This is the kind of movie that should have taken an extra year to develop and refine to make it above average instead of rehashing the same. This series has (or had) so much potential and the producers decided instead to eliminate the Kung Fu fortune-cookie quotes, the mind-warping intrigue and awe that made the first film a cinematic treat.

Rarely am I on the fence with a film, but it seems this movie split the critics with the opinion that you will either love it or hate it. I agree with them. My bigger question is, beyond a suspected cash cow for those who loved the initial offerings (hey, I myself bought a movie ticket), why bother?